Thankfully, the ubiquitous Classmates.com banner ads are less prevalent than they once were. I never had a weak moment and signed up, but some did, and some got compensated for their blinding loneliness.
Classmates.com has agreed to refund nearly $10 million to users who were told that long-lost school chums were looking at their profiles, only to find, once they’d ponied up a subscription fee, that no one they knew was looking for them at all.
The proposed settlement would end a lawsuit filed in November 2008 on behalf of Classmates.com user Anthony Michaels who sued after he spent $15 to upgrade to a Gold Membership at Classmates.com, one of the net’s original social networking sites. But that fee was a rip-off, he said.
“Upon logging into his Gold Membership profile in order to view the classmate contacts … Plaintiff discovered that in fact, no former classmate of his had tried to contact him or view his profile,” the complaint read. “Of those www.classmates.com users who were characterized … as members who viewed Plaintiff’s profile, none were former classmates of Plaintiff or persons familiar with or known to Plaintiff for that matter.”
While Classmates.com denies it engaged in any deception, it agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to the estimated 3.16 million people who signed up for the service after seeing ads and e-mails encouraging users to upgrade in order to see what members had been looking at their profiles. Each will be offered $3 in cash or a $2 certificate towards future membership.
[Click to continue reading Lonely Classmates.com Users Get $9.5M in Suit]
The real winners, of course, are the class action lawyers1, who as always get the major portion of the settlement. Most members of the class get $3, if you were a primary defendant, you get $2,500, but the attorneys get $1,300,000. Pretty much par for the course.
update: see here for more details, but
But this week, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put a damper on the business model of legal extortion by trial lawyers filing frivolous lawsuits.
Frank has become the proverbial fly in the trial lawyers’ ointment, objecting again and again to bogus nuisance settlements that make up the bread and butter for some. In January, his objection helped convince a court to throw out a settlement between Classmates.com(the online social site with the annoying popup ads) and some users who felt they had been duped into signing up.
In that case — whose merits appear much stronger than the Bluetooth case — the lawyers had negotiated $117,000 for the aggrieved class, and a million-plus-dollar fee for themselves.
Frank’s organization, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is currently fighting settlements that are overly generous to trial lawyers in cases against Kellogg, Volkswagen and Toys “R” Us, among others.
- note: this link to the PDF is currently not working [↩]