Thursday, January 26, 2012

Former Comcast Subscribers Lacked Standing to Bring California Class Action

This posting was written by Jody Coultas, Editor of CCH State Unfair Trade Practices Law.

Putative class representatives lacked standing to bring California Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) class action claims against Comcast because they lacked the requisite injury in fact, according to the federal district court in Fresno, California.

The representatives were former subscribers to Comcast’s telephone services who alleged the company adopted deceptive policies and practices relating to post-cancellation billing of consumers who seek to port their telephone number to another service provider, provided unclear and inaccurate billing statements, and used arcane and confusing final billing statements. The class representatives received a refund of funds deducted from the representatives’ accounts via direct payments.

Injury in Fact

To have standing under the UCL, the representatives needed to show an injury in fact stemming from an unfair business practice. The CLRA required the representatives to show a tangible increased cost or burden resulting from an alleged unlawful practice. Because the representatives received refunds, there was no evidence of an injury in fact or economic loss. The representatives’ argument that the refund was inadequate was too speculative to plead a concrete injury.

None of the putative class members suffered an injury in fact, according to the court. Although class members need not submit evidence of personal standing, a class must be defined in a way that anyone within it would have standing. There was no evidence that the refund calculation was incorrect or otherwise resulted in an injury.

Common Issues

Even if the class representatives had standing to pursue the UCL and CLRA claims, the class did not meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Rule 23(a)(2) requires questions of law or fact common to the class. In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541 (2011), the Supreme Court held that class representatives are required to identify how common points of facts and law will drive or resolve the litigation. The representatives failed to properly articulate common issues, according to the court.

The decision is Gonzales v. Comcast Corporation, CCH State Unfair Trade Practices Law ¶32,387.

Further information about the CCH State Unfair Trade Practices Law appears here.

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