Latest News: M&S is Advocating for Consumers in State Courts, Federal Courts and the U.S. Supreme Court
M&S Settles with Verizon for Improperly Charging for Installing Jacks
In Enerson v. Verizon New Jersey, Mehri & Skalet, working with co-counsel, claimed that Verizon had improperly charged customers on about 300,000 occasions for installing “network interface jacks” — a cost that by tariff should have been borne by Verizon. Following extensive negotiations and discovery, a settlement of approximately $4.5 million dollars was approved. This resulted in a refund to customers of nearly twice the overcharge they paid and separately paid for legal and administration fees. Current Verizon NJ customers received a direct credit to their accounts and the remaining customers were mailed a check in August 2016. Any checks not cashed will be used to create a cy pres fund for the benefit of consumer oriented public interest non-profits.
Supreme Court Reviewing M&S Antitrust Case Challenging ATM Price-Fixing
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a consumer case in which Mehri & Skalet is representing consumers against Visa, MasterCard and several banks.
The class action lawsuit alleges that Visa, MasterCard, along with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and other banks, colluded to fix ATM fees. Plaintiffs in the case contend that average ATM fees have gone up year after year as a result of Visa and MasterCard enforcing a rule which states that a bank or ATM can only charge an access fee on Visa and MasterCard’s ATM networks if it charges no lesser amount for transactions on any competitor ATM network. At the same time, Visa and MasterCard pay ATMs the lowest “interchange” amounts by far for transactions that the ATMs conduct over Visa and MasterCard’s networks. The effect of the restraint is that ATMs cannot price their services as they see fit, and they have no choice but to raise their access fees on all transactions so consumers end up paying more. The plaintiffs argue that without such a rule, ATM networks would be able to charge customers less for other networks’ transactions, and Visa and MasterCard would have to compete on price, all of which would benefit the competition and consumers.
A federal district court dismissed the suit, ruling that plaintiffs did not have standing and had not alleged the existence of an agreement to fix prices. In August 2015, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment, ruling that plaintiffs had standing, and had pleaded the existence of an illegal agreement. The defendants then petitioned for review to the Supreme Court, which granted the petition.
Argument in the case is likely to take place in late 2016 or early 2017. The Supreme Court is also expected to issue a ruling in late 2016 or early 2017.
New Consumer Lawsuits: D.C. and Maryland Hospitals Unfairly Charging for Medical Records
Mehri & Skalet is representing patients in a class action against two D.C. hospitals, alleging that they charge unreasonable and unconscionable rates for providing a patient’s medical records. Even though hospitals and other medical providers now maintain their records in electronic format, and federal law explicitly limits the amount they may charge for providing those records, these hospitals continue to charge the same rates they charged when the records were in paper format and had to be manually copied.
Plaintiffs are currently engaged in discovery, with a hearing on class certification scheduled for mid-2017.
In October 2016, Mehri & Skalet also filed a class action against three Maryland hospitals concerning overcharges for providing medical records.