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Consumer Rights in the Supreme Court this Term

If you are applying for a job, it is likely that your potential employer will search for your name online. It is becoming increasingly more common to find companies using online information as part of a formal or informal background check before extending a job offer. Certain online search engines have created a business out of compiling public information about a person and packaging it for employers or any interested party to find. But what can you do if you discover that the information in these search engines is wrong?

This is exactly what happened to Thomas Robins, a Virginia man who discovered that the search engine Spokeo had almost no correct information about him. His age, wealth, employment status, marital status, and education level were all incorrect. Worse yet, there were no procedures in place for Mr. Robins to correct this startling amount of false information. Mr. Robins sued Spokeo on his behalf and as a class of all of the people harmed by false information from the search engine. This summer, the case made it all of the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court's decision is both a win and a loss for consumers. The decision affirmed some of the most basic protections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), while at the same time making it more difficult for people in Mr. Robins' situation to sue companies like Spokeo. Under this new opinion, not only must a person show that a credit reporting agency had insufficient procedures to correct false information and that the credit reporting agency did spread false information, but also that the person suffered a concrete harm because of it.

This additional hurdle will make it more difficult for plaintiffs like Mr. Robins to sue. It is easy to imagine situations where false information could cause you concrete harm. As many online commentators have pointed out, incorrect college degree information could be the reason you were denied an interview. An incorrect zip code could influence your child's ability to go to the local public school. An incorrect address could be the reason you were denied a job for positions with a residency requirement. Nevertheless, while these situations happen, being able to prove that they happened is an entirely different matter. This new hurdle will make it more difficult for consumers to ensure that online reporting agencies provide accurate, trustworthy information.

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At Levitt & Slafkes, P.C., we care about consumer rights. Our firm handles bankruptcies, foreclosures, and business litigation on behalf of New Jersey consumers. Contact our law firm online by filling out the form or by calling 973-323-2953 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at Levitt & Slafkes, PC.

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