How California’s Consumer Protection Laws Could Make the State a Hotspot for COVID-19 Lawsuits
Only a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 50 class action lawsuits, all related to the pandemic, have already been filed in California because the state is a particularly hospitable venue for consumer class action lawsuits.
Specifically, the state’s newly passed, plaintiff-friendly, cybersecurity law, as well as the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL), and California’s long-standing Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) make it especially tempting for plaintiff’s lawyers to view the pandemic as a litigious opportunity. The three laws together allow creative plaintiff’s lawyers to allege violations of consumer privacy, particularly online, as well as unethical business behavior, and business practices that are unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent.
Lawsuits Already Filed
In one such lawsuit, Mercado v. eBay, Inc., filed on May 4, 2020, plaintiffs sued eBay for allegedly encouraging sellers to dramatically raise the prices of masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and other products believed to combat the spread of the virus.
In another suit, McQueen v. Amazon.com, filed on April 21, 2020, Amazon is alleged to have engaged in unconscionable and unlawful price increases during the pandemic by inflating prices for essential goods by more than 600%.
Plaintiffs in a third suit, David v. Vi-Jon Inc., filed on March 5, 2020, allege that Vi-Jon Inc., a company that makes hand sanitizer, falsely represented to consumers that the hand sanitizer was effective against COVID-19. Consumers claim to have relied on Vi-Jon’s advertising to their detriment.
In still other class action suits, consumers are seeking refunds from health clubs that had to close because of the pandemic but still billed customers.
What the Law Says
California’s CLRA prohibits “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in connection with the sale or lease of goods or services to consumers. The Act does require plaintiffs to prove that they suffered actual damages because of the defendant’s acts, but California’s law, unlike consumer protection laws in other states, has no scienter requirement, meaning that the plaintiff does not have to show that the defendant intended to deceive the consumer.
For all of these reasons, the number of class action, consumer protection lawsuits filed in California due to the pandemic continues to grow. No doubt, the number of manufacturers, resellers, and tech companies accused of these violations will grow as well.
If You’ve Been Accused
If you have been accused of violating California’s CLRA, or another consumer protection law, you need an attorney who understands the issues involved and the defenses available. Mohsen Parsa has experience representing clients who are accused of violating California’s consumer laws and can help you defend your business and avoid costly litigation. Contact Mohsen Parsa online.