The Ninth Circuit Court has ruled that internet marketing company Turn Inc. cannot use agreements between Verizon and Verizon customers that include mandatory arbitration clauses to shield itself from privacy violation lawsuits over allegedly illegal tracking and exploitative advertising. Consumers generally loathe such “forced arbitration” provisions as they deprive them of their rights to challenge fraud and improper practices in court, relegating their claims instead to what are considered to be biased, paid-for-by-the-offending-companies arbitration hearings.
In 2015, a class of Verizon customers sued internet marketing company Turn Inc. in California federal court for privacy violations over claims the company improperly monitored and tracked the consumers’ online behavior through their phones. According to Courthouse News, “Advertisers use bits of data called cookies to gather web information about users that can be used in targeted advertising.”
Although users can ordinarily delete cookies, Turn allegedly leveraged “zombie” cookies that evaded detection and could not be removed by user, facilitating the building of robust user profiles that were then sold for targeted and highly profitable advertising to subscribers based on their mobile data patterns. All of this is done without user knowledge or consent, and plaintiffs allege that Turn’s conduct violates consumer protection laws and amounts to trespass.
As noted by Law360, the appeals court overturned the lower court’s holding that the proposed class of Verizon subscribers could be bound by Turn Inc. to arbitration, “finding it was wrong to find that Turn could call on the customers’ contracts with Verizon – which include an arbitration clause – to protect it from facing claims by those customers in court.” The Ninth Circuit panel specifically noted that “[t]he district court committed clear error in holding that equitable estopped applied to compel arbitration under the customer agreement.”
“We are pleased with the Ninth Circuit’s decision and order, and are looking forward to litigating these claims on behalf of the plaintiffs and the proposed class,” stated Lieff Cabraser partner Nimish R Desai.
The case is In re: Anthony Henson et al. v. U.S. District Court, case number 16-71818, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Contact a National Lieff Cabraser Digital Privacy & Data Protection Attorney
Lieff Cabraser represents plaintiffs in class action litigation alleging that internet marketing company Turn, Inc. violates users’ digital privacy by installing software tracking beacons on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile computing devices. The complaint alleges that in an effort to thwart standard privacy settings and features, Turn deploys so-called “zombie cookies” that cannot be detected or deleted, and that track smartphone activity across various browsers and applications, conduct that lawsuits allege violates consumer protection statutes and the common law.
If you own a smart mobile device — for example, an iPhone or Android phone or tablet — and you have a Verizon data plan for that device, your privacy rights may have been violated by Turn. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation review of your case.