Law School Case Brief
Doe v. Great Expectations - 2005 NY Slip Op 25464, 10 Misc. 3d 618, 809 N.Y.S.2d 819 (Civ. Ct.)
The use of the Internet creates no exception from the application of consumer protection laws, where there is a New York business and a transaction located in New York. For New York consumer fraud claims, the Internet medium is essentially irrelevant, for the focus is primarily upon the location of the relevant actor and whether a statute has been violated.
Claimant women brought small claims actions, consolidated for decision, to recover, respectively, $1,000 and $3,790, they had paid under a contract for defendant's services, which offer to expand a client's social horizons primarily through posting a client's video and profile on an Internet site on which other clients can review them and thereafter, as desired, approach a selected client for actual social interaction. The claimants argued that the service had violated the New York Dating Services Law, N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 394-c, and that they had received nothing in return for the large fees they had paid.
Under the circumstances, could the claimants recover the amounts they had paid on their contracts?
The court awarded claimants the amounts they had paid on their contracts, plus interest from the date of payment. According to the court, even though the service did not guarantee a particular number of referrals to the women, it charged them far more than § 394-c allowed for the minimal services it did provide. Each woman paid between one and two thousand dollars. Their contracts violated § 394-c in many other ways and did not include the client's Bill of Rights, an absolutely mandated provision. The Dating Services Law authorized awards of actual damages, which the court determined, based on its assessment of the parties' relative credibility, equaled the full contract prices paid, plus interest running from the date of payment. The statute also permitted a court, in its discretion, to notify New York State's Attorney General and the city's Department of Consumer Affairs of violators. It decided that such a notification was appropriate and announced that it would send a copy of its opinion to those offices.
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