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Supreme Court Gets it Right in Spokeo

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“Corporations took a shot at gutting America’s privacy laws, and they missed.” – Paul Bland

The Supreme Court has held in Spokeo, Inc.v. Robins, that, in a nutshell, consumers are injured even if they don’t lose money on credit report violations. Corporations can’t get away with violating consumers’ rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) just because the consumer can’t point to losing a specific dollar figure because the corporation violated federal law.

Its common knowledge that an accurate credit report is as valuable today as a horse was in the old west. Losing it would definitely hurt you but the actual dollar figure harm can take years to show up. Indeed, it may not show up until someone or something, (bank, future employer, insurance company), decides to inflate the cost for credit on loans or purchases, insurance or even decline to offer a job. Wrong information on a credit report can be like a land mine waiting to be stepped on. The consumer is unaware of it till someone pulls the report and his credit score and/or job prospect gets blown up.

Paul Bland at Public Justice (Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.) analyzed the decision in a well thought out straight forward analysis.

You can find the analysis at https://www.publicjustice.net/8665-2/

Here’s an excerpt:

Corporations took a shot at gutting America’s privacy laws, and they missed.

Every justice agreed – the decision is unanimous – that consumers can bring claims for statutory damages (where Congress says that if a corporation breaks some law, it must pay a fixed sum, even if the claims are hard to prove), even if the consumer has not lost money or suffered a personal injury.

Corporate advocates had asked the Supreme Court to gut the nation’s privacy laws. They argued even consumers alleging that false statements had been made about them did not have a right to bring a case in federal court unless they could show an economic harm. The Court refused to take that step, and rejected the conclusion that corporate defenders sought in this case.

Corporate defendants also wanted the Supreme Court to say that Congress couldn’t pass laws protecting consumers against illegal actions unless the corporation breaking the law had taken money from consumers. But the Court disagreed with Corporate America on that one too, and recognized that Congress can create “legally cognizable injuries” even if they were previously ‘inadequate in law” to be something that a consumer could sue over. So, for example, the Court recognized and applied an earlier Supreme Court decision noting that a consumer can bring a lawsuit for “failure to obtain information subject to disclosure” under a federal law.

Read opinion at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/13-1339_f2q3.pdf.

All in all, it’s a victory for consumers.

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