Posted tagged ‘class action’

Vincent—not e-mail but junk mail

November 27, 2007

Gov. Matt Blunt recently tapped Missouri Department of Revenue head, Trish Vincent, as his chief of staff, after letting Ed Martin go in “…you’re doing a heckuva of a job, Brownie…” style.
The e-mail debacle aside, Vincent is the one who brought you more junk mail—slick fliers with your vehicle renewal notices beginning last year. It’s the story the Headliner published Sept. 20, 2006.
Under Vincent’s leadership the DOR launched the private-public partnership with Imagitas, Inc., a subsidiary of Pitney Bowes, to print motor vehicle renewal forms at no cost to the state in exchange for the right to advertise to millions of people in Missouri.
It was all done to save money—about a half million in 2006 out of a $86-million budget, she said.
But the move did not go unnoticed by some astute consumers, resenting the state selling their addresses to the direct-marketing firm and thereby violating the federal Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act. Missouri is one of a number of states participating in a class-action suit against Pitney-Bowes.
A quick Google of Imagitas found this news story from 2006.
“Pitney Bowes has changed course radically in trying to defend one of its companies, Imagitas. Imagitas, facing a national class action suit for violation of driver’s privacy rights in six states, has now withdrawn a motion for summary judgment that claimed they had not violated the law. They have announced that, instead, they will file a motion for a multi-district litigation (MDL) to handle the violations of the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). A violation of the DPPA invokes a penalty of $2500 per incident.
“We estimate that Pitney Bowes has affected about 22 million people by this violation,” said Norwood “Woody” Wilner of the Jacksonville-based trial firm Spohrer Wilner, and lead attorney in the class action suit against Imagitas. Wilner’s comments were made during a meeting of lead plaintiff lawyers from the six states where the Pitney Bowes Company did business. Imagitas targeted drivers in six states: Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, New York and Minnesota with commercial solicitations in envelopes containing vehicle registration.
Wilner, who lead the first successful tobacco litigation, says the arrogance of a company to ignore privacy laws reminds him the early days of tobacco litigation. “Despite explicit Federal Law, we have a company who is trying to work the system. This is unacceptable in the age of privacy,” said Wilner. “The DPPA was created to protect drivers from privacy invasion. Pitney Bowes has reversed course after their lawyers worked with the court to set a hearing date in February.”
Wilner, a native of Miami Beach, Florida, became internationally famous for his successful campaign against the tobacco industry. Mr. Wilner and his team won the groundbreaking case, Carter v. Brown and Williamson, which resulted in the first verdict against the tobacco industry to be affirmed on appeal, involving both the Florida Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.”
Since that time, Missouri has come on board.
A news report from the Boston Business Journal titled: “Pitney Bowes’ unit faces suit over junk mail info” had this to say in part:
“ ‘It’s a real win-win for the state of Missouri,” said Maura Browning, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Revenue.
Aside from the lawsuits, Browning said the only complaints the state has received came from some insurance agents who were miffed when they saw ads for State Farm insurance included with the auto registration information.”
One of those “miffed” insurance agents was Ozark’s Teresa Christensen.
“I was rather insulted by it,” the Shelter Insurance agent said. “This is a taxpayer supported entity of the government. It looked like the state was endorsing that particular company and some people will take it that way.”
And, in spite of what the DOR and Imagitas say, the states involved in this scheme are selling residents’ personal information to a direct marketing firm for profit and getting a cut of the action.