US Supreme Court to consider whether online search service should face class action for placing incorrect information

April 28, 2015 |

In US the courts are quite reluctant to award general damages for privacy breaches.  The US Supreme Court in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins the US Supreme Court will consider the question defined as:

Whether Congress may confer Article III standing upon a plaintiff who suffers no concrete harm, and who therefore could not otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court, by authorizing a private right of action based on a bare violation of a federal statute

The issue in this case is whether a claim can proceed where there has been a technical violation of an act even where there is no economic harm arising from the inaccurate information being placed on line.

The history of the matter and briefs filed are found at Scotusblog here.

The reportage in U.S. justices to weigh suit against people-search service Spokeo gives a good background, stating:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether online people-search service Spokeo Inc should face a class action lawsuit for including incorrect information in its database.

Thomas Robins filed suit in California on behalf of himself and others under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires consumer reporting agencies to provide correct information. Spokeo, which says it is not a consumer reporting agency, is fighting to have the lawsuit thrown out.

The legal issue before the Supreme Court is whether plaintiffs can sue for a technical violation of the federal law even when they cannot show they have been harmed economically by the inclusion of inaccurate information.

Robins, who is unemployed, had claimed his Spokeo entry had damaged his job-seeking prospects because it contained inaccurate information. The entry, for example, stated that Robins has a graduate degree, which he says is not correct.

The business community, which often fights to limit what consumers can sue over, is firmly behind Spokeo. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and technology companies such as Facebook Inc and Google Inc joined friend-of-the-court briefs backing Spokeo’s position, saying that allowing such lawsuits to go forward encourages abuse of the class action process.

In its court filing, the chamber noted that the case implicates not just the credit reporting law, but dozens of other federal laws, “all of which could be read to authorize suit by plaintiffs who have suffered no actual concrete or particularized injury.”

Those laws include provisions of the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, according to Spokeo.

President Barack Obama’s administration had asked the court not to hear the case.

The case will be argued and decided in the court’s next term, which begins in October and ends in June 2016.

 

 

 

 

One Response to “US Supreme Court to consider whether online search service should face class action for placing incorrect information”

  1. US Supreme Court to consider whether online search service should face class action for placing incorrect information | Australian Law Blogs

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