Competition Law Claims Alleging Apple Double Bills Fall Short, Judge Finds

    SAN FRANCISCO - Plaintiffs alleging that Apple Inc. violates the California unfair competition law (UCL) by double billing on iTunes purchases lack evidence of an unconscionable contract as a basis for unlawful-prong claims and an insufficient statutory tether for their unfair-prong claims, a federal judge held April 15 (Robert Herskowitz, et al. v. Apple Inc., Phoebe Juel, et al. v. Apple Inc., Nos. 12-2131, 12-3124, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54092).

    $9.5 Million Cash Settlement Approved In Bar Review Antitrust Action

    LOS ANGELES - A federal judge in California on April 15 preliminary approved a $9.5 million settlement of a class action brought by law students against West Publishing Co. and Kaplan Inc. for conspiring to restrain trade in the market for bar review preparation courses, following his rejection of an earlier settlement (Stephen Stetson, et al. v. West Publishing Corporation, No. CV-08-00810, C.D. Calif.).

    Judge Dismisses Majority Of Claims In Enhanced Sweetener Case

    SAN FRANCISCO - Consumers challenging supposed health benefits of enhanced artificial sweeteners under the unfair competition law (UCL) fail to allege a long-running advertising campaign, bring impermissible substantiation claims and their claims are largely preempted, a federal judge held April 16 (Barbara Bronson, Michael Fishman and Alvin Kupperman v. Johnson & Johnson Inc. and McNeil Nutritionals Inc., No. 12-4148, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54029).

    State, Federal Antitrust Claims Related To Exclusive Supplier Agreements Fail

    SAN FRANCISCO - A chain of hardware stores failed to demonstrate that Home Depot USA Inc. violated federal and state antitrust laws by entering into exclusive agreements with two power tool suppliers, a federal judge in California ruled April 11 (Orchard Supply Hardware LLC v. Home Depot USA, Inc., et al., No. 12-cv-06361, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53214).

    Several Claims By Direct Purchasers In Pool Products Antitrust MDL Continue

    NEW ORLEANS - Direct purchasers of pool products failed to state claims asserting per se illegal boycott and monopolization but sufficiently stated rule-of-reason and attempted monopolization claims to defeat motions to dismiss under the Sherman Act, the federal judge in Louisiana who is overseeing the pool products distribution market antitrust multidistrict litigation ruled April 11 (In re: Pool Products Distribution Market Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 2328, No. 2:12-md-02328, E.D. La.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52298).

    Infringement, Cybersquatting Claims In 'Space Walk' Dispute Partly Dismissed

    NEW ORLEANS - A maker of inflatable amusements saw its trademark and cybersquatting claims dismissed by a Louisiana federal judge on April 11 because it did not own the mark at issue in the lawsuit (The Inflatable Zoo, et al. v. About to Bounce LLC, No. 2:12-cv-01709, E.D. La.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52286).

    State Claims Against Gas Traders Are Not Preempted, 9th Circuit Rules

    SAN FRANCISCO - Natural gas purchasers' state law claims alleging that gas companies conspired to manipulate the natural gas market, which gave rise to the energy crisis in 2000-2001, are not barred by the Natural Gas Act, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 10 (In re: Western States Wholesale Natural Gas Antitrust Litigation $(Learjet, Inc., et al. v. ONEOK, Inc., et al., No. 11-16786; Heartland Regional Medical Center, et al. v. ONEOK, Inc., et al., No. 11-16798; Breckenridge Brewery of Colorado, LLC, et al. v. Xcel Energy, Inc., et al., No. 11-16799; Reorganized FLI, Inc. v. ONEOK, Inc., et al., No. 11-16802; Sinclair Oil Corporation v. ONEOK Energy Services Company, L.P., No. 11-16818; Sinclair Oil Corporation v. eprime, Inc., et al., No. 11-16821; Arandell Corporation, et al. v. Xcel Energy, Inc., et al., No. 11-16869; Newpage Wisconsin System, Inc. v. CMS Energy Corporation, et al., No. 11-16876; Arandell Corporation, et al., v. CMS Energy Corporation, et al., No. 11-16880$), 9th Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 7234).

    Judge Dismisses Antitrust Class Action Against Inflight Internet Provider

    SAN FRANCISCO - Three airline travelers have failed to show that "there has been a substantial foreclosure of competition in the relevant market" of providers of Internet connectivity on domestic commercial aircraft, a California federal judge found April 10, granting a motion to dismiss by Gogo Inc. (James Stewart, et al. v. Gogo Inc., No. 3:12-cv-05164, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51895).

    Judge: Competition Law Claims Involving Lawyer's Google Advertising Proceed

    SAN JOSE, Calif. - An Arkansas lawyer may pursue most of his California unfair competition law (UCL) action based on his alleged reliance on Google Inc.'s advertising pricing and placement policies, a federal judge held April 9 (Rick Woods, et al. v. Google Inc., No. 5:11-cv-01263, N.D. Calif.; 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120748).

    Divided En Banc 9th Circuit Finds Competition Law Claims Subject To Arbitration

    SAN FRANCISCO - An arbitration agreement between helicopter school students and a lender is neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable, and California unfair competition law (UCL) claims do not fall under the narrow "public injunction" exception of the Federal Arbitration Act, a divided en banc Ninth Circuit held April 11 (Matthew C. Kilgore, et al. v. KeyBank, National Association, et al., No. 09-16703, 9th Cir.).

    Food Mislabeling Claims Against Costco Fall Short Of Rule 9, Judge Says

    SAN JOSE, Calif. - While one of two plaintiffs has standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, their California unfair competition law (UCL) claims over the alleged mislabeling of food products lack specificity, a federal judge held April 9 (Karen Thomas and Lisa Liddle, et al. v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 12-2908, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51189).

    'Misbranded Food Products' Case Misses Heightened Pleading Mark, Judge Says

    SAN JOSE, Calif. - A woman's use of the phrase "misbranded food products" in her California unfair competition law (UCL) action falls short of the heightened standard for fraud allegations, a federal judge held April 9 (Amy Maxwell, et al. v. Unilever United States Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and Pepsi Lipton Tea Partnership, No. 12-1736, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51195).

    FLSA Statute Of Limitations Doesn't Preempt Competition Law Claims, Magistrate Says

    SAN JOSE, Calif. - The shorter statute of limitations in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require preemption of California unfair competition law (UCL) employment claims, a federal magistrate judge held April 9 (Douglas Roberts v. Trimac Transportation Services $(Western$) Inc., No. 12-5302, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51213).

    Certification Denied For Employees' Conspiracy Claims Against High-Tech Companies

    SAN JOSE, Calif. - A federal judge in California on April 5 denied certification of two proposed classes of employees of seven high-tech companies on the employees' allegations that the defendants conspired to fix and suppress employee compensation and to restrict employee mobility by entering into agreements not to compete for each other's employees (In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, No. 11-CV-02509, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49784).

    Court: Arbitration Clause Unconscionable; Competition Law Claim Proceeds

    SAN DIEGO - An automobile finance company may not force arbitration of California unfair competition law (UCL) claims because the back of the "take-it-or-leave-it" contract contains unconscionable provisions permitting appeal of any injunctive relief award and provides no way to avoid up-front payment of fees for both sides, a state appeals court held April 8 (Shaun Trabert v. Consumer Portfolio Services Inc., No. D06491, Calif. App., 4th Dist., Div. 1).

    Bayer Combination Aspirin Refund Class OKd, But Judge Denies 1 Cy Pres Recipient

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. - A New York federal judge on April 8 certified a $15 million refund class settlement for consumers who purchased Bayer Aspirin with Heart Advantage and Bayer Women's Low Dose Aspirin + Calcium but denied approval of a cy pres distribution of any unused funds to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation and ordered the plaintiffs to come up with a new recipient in two days (In Re: Bayer Combination Aspirin Products Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, No. 09-md-2023, E.D. N.Y.).

    Judge Again Rejects Standing For 'White Chocolate" Products Man Didn"t Purchase

    SAN FRANCISCO - A man may pursue misrepresentation claims under the California unfair competition law (UCL) for "white chocolate" products he purchased, but four other named products are too dissimilar for standing purposes, a federal judge held April 5 (Scott Miller, et al. v. Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., and DOES 1 through 50, No. 12-04936, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49733).

    Kansas Federal Judge Certifies Class Of California Claims In 'Hot Fuels" Cases

    KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Plaintiffs bringing California unfair competition law (UCL) claims in the "hot fuels" multidistrict litigation adequately allege standing and liability, a Kansas federal judge held April 5 in granting class certification (In Re: Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation, Rushing, et al. v. Alon USA Inc., et al., Lerner, et al. v. Costco Wholesale Corp., et al., Wyatt, et al. v. B.P. Am. Corp., et al., Nos. 07-md-1840, 07-2300, 07-2405, 07-2507, D. Kan.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49424).

    Judge Finds Attempt To Collect Visa Debt Was Abusive

    ST. LOUIS - A Missouri federal judge on April 1 awarded summary judgment to a man complaining that the attempted collection of a Target Visa debt violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and Telephone Consumer Protections Act (TCPA), finding that defendant Client Services Inc. (CSI) failed to show that its communications were accidental (Arric Ploch v. Client Services Inc., No. 4:12CV0518, E.D. Mo., Eastern Div.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46427).

    Snack Food Labeled 'All Natural' Is Likely To Deceive, Judge Concludes

    SAN FRANCISCO - While the lack of a hyphen in the term "all natural" could lead to multiple interpretations, a reasonable consumer would conclude the product contain exclusively "all natural" ingredients, a California federal judge held April 1 in partially granting a motion for dismissal (Markus Wilson and Doug Campen, et al. v. Frito-Lay North America Inc. and Pepsico Inc., No. 12-1586, N.D. Calif.).

    BMW Wins Injunction Against Repair Shop Using Its Trademarks

    LAS VEGAS - A Nevada federal judge on March 29 enjoined a Las Vegas auto repair shop that specializes in BMW repairs from continuing to imply a relationship with the auto company and ordered it to surrender any BMW-branded materials for destruction (BMW of North America LLC, et al. v. Quality Star Benzz LLC, No. 2:12-cv-00889, D. Nev.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46699).

    Judge Dismisses Class In Heartworm Medication Over Injunctive Relief

    ABERDEEN, Miss. - A Mississippi federal judge dismissed a putative class action suit brought by dog owners alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and unfair business practices in the marketing of heartworm medications as more effective than they actually are, saying April 1 that injunctive relief does not predominate over the monetary damages sought (Neal Haley, et al. v. Merial Limited, et al., No. 4:09-CV-00094, N.D. Miss.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46825).

    Federal Judge Rules Viable Claims Asserted Over Student Debt Collection

    PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge refused to dismiss some putative class action claims stemming from the collection of student debts, saying March 28 that the plaintiff had stated viable claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Pennsylvania's Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (FCEUA) (Megan Donohue v. Regional Adjustment Bureau Inc., et al., No. 12-1460, E.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45044).

    Bank's Conduct Was Not Fraudulent, Federal Judge Rules

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Claims that Chevy Chase Bank F.S.B. and successor Capital One N.A. made it impossible for a mortgage holder to make timely payments and unfairly reported late payments to credit agencies were dismissed March 28 by a District of Columbia federal judge through summary judgment or as preempted by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (Christopher Ihebereme v. Capital One, et al., No. 10-1106 (ABJ), D. D.C.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44392).

    9th Circuit Panel Rejects Continuous Violation Doctrine In Contract Case

    SAN FRANCISCO - A man has not adequately pleaded an injury or that the continuous violation doctrine saves his California unfair competition law (UCL) claim stemming from his contract with a franchiser, a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held March 28 (Sultan Hameed v. IHOP Franchising LLC, et al., No. 10-2276, No. 9th Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 6251).