Attorney Donald Caster writes from Cincinnati:
OK, I’ll admit it: I’m a “trial lawyer,” and I usually disagree with Overlawyered’s point of view. (In fact, usually when I read the blog, I’m thinking about what a great job a particular lawyer did to get the result that you’re now protesting.) But I get nearly as agitated as you folks do over the abusiveness of coupon settlements in class action cases, and I just got notice of such a settlement myself.
Below I’ve cut and pasted the exact text of the email message I received notifying me of the settlement. The class action has its own website at www.browningsettlement.com. As you can see, the defendant is Experian, and the plaintiffs claim that they made some sort of representations on a website that violated the “Credit Repair Organizations Act.”
Class counsel is set to take over $2.5 million in fees. The “benefit” to the class? A settlement in which class members get either (a) a free credit score, or (b) free credit monitoring for two months. And oh, by the way, if you take the latter option, you have to remember to cancel the monitoring, or you’ll automatically start getting billed $9.95/month for credit monitoring after sixty days. That reeks of a lack of arms-length negotiation between class counsel and the defendant (what a great deal for the defendant–they get new customers in exchange for settling a class action lawsuit!).
NOTICE FROM FEDERAL COURT. PLEASE READ.
You may be eligible to receive a benefit from a class-action settlement if you purchased and paid for a credit score or credit monitoring from ConsumerInfo.com or an Experian Entity between June 17, 1998 and December 27, 2006.
A federal court has directed that this notice be sent to inform you of a proposed class-action settlement. Records show that you entered into an agreement over the Internet with ConsumerInfo.com or an Experian Entity to purchase any Credit Check or Credit Check Monitoring (which were formerly known as CreditCheck® Monitoring Service), Credit Manager (including Yahoo! Credit Manager), Triple Alert, or Triple Advantage credit-monitoring product, or you paid for a credit score sold on a website that also sold one of these credit-monitoring products, between June 17, 1998 and December 27, 2006. If so, you may be eligible to receive a benefit under the proposed settlement.
The settlement will resolve a lawsuit over whether Defendants violated the federal Credit Repair Organizations Act or are liable for claims where the stated basis is about improvement of a consumer’s credit record, history, or rating. Under the settlement, Defendants deny that they are liable, but have agreed not to make certain statements on particular websites and to provide all Settlement Class Members with the opportunity to obtain their choice of a settlement benefit: either (i) a credit score or (ii) 60 days of credit monitoring, as described below and on the settlement website. To see if you are a Class Member and to obtain full notice of the proposed Settlement, the required procedures, the Effective Date, the deadlines, your obligations, and your options, you must visit www.browningsettlement.com. This email is only a brief summary of the full notice that is posted on the website.
If you are an eligible Settlement Class Member, you have rights, obligations, and options under the proposed settlement. You have until May 15, 2007 to make your decision. Your legal rights are affected whether you act or not.
1. Submit A Registration Form Online Or By Mail
This is the only way to get a settlement benefit of either a credit score or 60 days of credit monitoring. You will choose your benefit, and you must keep all of your registration information updated. If you choose credit monitoring, and you don’t cancel your credit-monitoring membership after using your code to obtain the credit monitoring benefit but prior to the expiration of the 60 day, settlement benefit period, you will be billed at the then-applicable rate, which is currently $9.95, for each month that you continue your membership. Beginning on the Effective Date of the settlement, you will be able to register online or by mail. If you register online, your registration must be completed no later than sixty (60) days after the Effective Date, and submitted online by midnight Pacific Time. If you register by mail, your registration must be mailed and postmarked on or before sixty (60) days after the Effective Date. For more information on these deadlines, the Effective Date of the settlement, the registration procedures, and the settlement benefit, you must visit www.browningsettlement.com. Do not contact the Court.
2. Exclude Yourself
This is the only option that allows you to ever be part of any other lawsuit about the claims in this case. You will not be eligible for a settlement benefit. Your request for exclusion must be mailed and postmarked on or before May 15, 2007. Any request for exclusion must be mailed to the Browning Settlement Administrator. Do not contact the Court.
Write to the Browning Settlement Administrator in order to tell the Court about why you don’t like the settlement. Your objection must be mailed and postmarked on or before May 15, 2007. Do not contact the Court.
4. Go to a Hearing
Write to the Browning Settlement Administrator to ask to speak in Court about the fairness of the settlement. Your request to speak at the hearing must be mailed and postmarked on or before May 15, 2007. The final fairness hearing is set for July 31, 2007, at which time the Court will consider whether to finally approve the settlement and a request by the lawyers representing all Class Members for no more than $2,550,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.
5. Do Nothing
You will automatically be included in the Settlement Class and give up your right to be part of any other lawsuit about the claims in this case, but you will not be eligible to receive a settlement benefit unless you submit a registration form.
To get complete information about the proposed settlement, the required procedures, the Effective Date, the deadlines, your obligations, and your options, you must visit www.browningsettlement.com. Do not contact the Court.
Please do not reply to this message. We are unable to respond to inquiries sent in reply to this email. To contact us, please access the official settlement website at www.browningsettlement.com.