AOL Email Footer Lawsuit: Fairchild v. AOL, Cecchini v. AOL.

The History thus far:

On March  2006, AOL placed advertisements in the footers of all AOL member emails. Since then it sparked a petition gaining  900 signatures against the idea.

In May 2008, AOL notified a limited number of subscribers by allowing the option to remove the advertising footers at AOL Keyword (http://footer.aol.com). It is amazing even to this day, I was never notified of this keyword.

Around October 2008, AOL was hit by a lawsuit. The case, Cecchini v. AOL LLC, stated, “AOL attached advertisements to over 100 million emails without the subscribers’ permission.”

Frank Cecchini believes, an AOL customer paying $25.90 a month should not see any form of advertisements placed within their email. I pretty much agree, it is  understandable to place advertisements inside free email accounts, but I don’t think it is fair to paying AOL customers. I feel paying customers shouldn’t see advertisements on AOL websites, but I digress.

 

Proposed Settlement

An email from a related case, Fairchild v. AOL was released this week. Fairchild et. al v. AOL started around May 2009, and has since been placed within Cecchini v. AOL. It appears since August 24th, 2009, the lawsuit has moved to the proposed settlement phase. Here the courts will decide if AOL should pay over $250,000 for legal costs and fees, in addition to $103,000 it must pay to charity, among other things.

 

AOL’s Proposed Requirements

According to the email, AOL is required to notify it’s members about AOL Keyword Footer (http://footer.aol.com). They must also inform current and new members (upon registering for an AOL account) the option to remove the advertisements. This notification will continue every six months for two years.

 

User Response

Well I must admit, there isn’t much buzz about this subject but people have been forwarding this email around. I’ll wait until a few more days to get a response. So far I see it has been pretty negative. I think paying AOL members are bummed that they won’t get any share of the money.  I think sending a portion of the money to charity is a nice touch, but it would be nice to get something back… (or does this make me sound greedy?)


 

[via joemanna and court house news and Cecchini and Bronster]

 OFFICIAL NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF CLASS ACTION
AND PROPOSED SETTLEMENT

If You Are Currently an AOL Member Your Rights May Be Affected by a Proposed
Class Action Settlement.  

• The Proposed Settlement is on behalf of all current AOL Members. It resolves
claims regarding advertising or promotional “footers” that may have been
appended to the bottom of your e-mails by AOL.
• The Proposed Settlement provides that all current AOL Members will immediately
be provided notice of the footers and their ability to discontinue the footers
via AOL Keyword: Footer and http://footer.aol.com, and that, if AOL continues to
append footers to its Members’ e-mails, such notice will be provided both to all
new customers upon their registration of an AOL account and to all current AOL
Members on a regular, periodic basis (every six months for two years)
• The Proposed Settlement provides that AOL shall make donations to several
different charities totaling $103,000.
• If you do nothing and this Proposed Settlement is approved by the Court you
will be part of the Settlement Class and bound by the terms of the Settlement.  
• The Court still has to decide whether to approve the Proposed Settlement.
Settlement Class Members will receive the benefits of the Settlement after the
Court approves the Settlement.  

PLEASE DO NOT CALL OR WRITE DIRECTLY TO THE COURT.

YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS ARE AFFECTED WHETHER OR NOT YOU ACT.
PLEASE READ THIS NOTICE CAREFULLY.

YOUR RIGHTS AND CHOICES:

You May
 Due Date

1. Do Nothing
(see questions #7 and 15) This space intentionally left blank  
or
2. Exclude Yourself
(see questions #11 – 13)  Postmarked by
November 20, 2009  
or
3. Object to the Settlement
(see question #14)  Filed and Received by
December 7, 2009  
or
4. Appear in the Lawsuit
(see question #14)  Filed and Received by
December 7, 2009

1. WHO SHOULD READ THIS NOTICE?

If you are presently an AOL customer you should read this notice. Your legal
rights are affected by the proposed Settlement of a class action lawsuit,
Fairchild et al v. AOL, Case No. CV09-03568 CAS (PLAx), which is pending in the
United States District Court for the Central District of California. This Notice
explains:
What this Lawsuit is about;
Who is included in the Settlement;
How the Settlement will benefit you;
How to get the benefits of the Settlement; and
What your legal rights are.
If you have any questions regarding this Notice, please send an e-mail to
footerlitigat...@corp.aol.com, which will be shared with Settlement Class
Counsel. If you send an e-mail, please be sure to include the name of the
lawsuit (Fairchild v. AOL) in the Subject Line. However, please read the entire
Notice before writing. A copy of this Notice is also available online at
http://legal.web.aol.com/Footersettlement.pdf.
PLEASE DO NOT CALL OR WRITE DIRECTLY TO
THE COURT OR THE CLERK’S OFFICE.
2. WHAT IS THIS LAWSUIT ABOUT?

This Lawsuit was brought by Plaintiffs Dawn Fairchild, Robert Nachshin, Brian
Geers and Larry Gerrard against Defendant AOL LLC. Plaintiffs allege that (1)
the failure to inform them that AOL would insert e-mail footers in their sent
e-mails and (2) the insertion of such footers, violate the law.

AOL denies Plaintiffs’ allegations and maintains that it acted in accordance
with all laws and regulations.

3. WHO REPRESENTS ME IN THIS CASE?

The Court has appointed the following attorneys in the Fairchild Action to act
as Settlement Class Counsel:

Glenn Nunes
The Nunes Law Group
101 California St. Suite 2450
San Francisco, CA
(415) 946-8894

Christopher J. Hamner
Hamner Law Offices
15760 Ventura Blvd Ste 860
Encino, CA 91436
(818) 386-0444

Brian Kabateck, Esq.
Richard Kellner, Esq.
Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP
644 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 217-5000

4. WHY IS THERE A SETTLEMENT?

The Court has not decided who is right or wrong in this lawsuit. Instead, the
Settlement Class Representatives and AOL agreed to a Settlement, which was
preliminarily approved by the Court on August 25, 2009. As a result of the
Settlement, all parties avoid the costs of further litigation and risks of a
trial and Settlement Class members may obtain the benefits of the Settlement.

The Settlement Class Representatives believe that the case has merit and that
the evidence supports their claims. The Settlement Class representatives
determined that the proposed settlement is fair, reasonable, adequate, and in
the best interests of the Settlement Class. The Settlement will permit
Plaintiffs and the Settlement Class Members to receive full and complete
disclosure of AOL’s practice of appending e-mail footers and the ability simply
and easily to discontinue these footers, without the time, risk and expense of
litigation. AOL has also agreed to contribute significant sums to 7 charities as
part of this settlement.

AOL does not believe that Plaintiffs’ claims have factual or legal merit.
However, AOL desires to avoid unnecessary litigation costs while also ensuring
that it has taken adequate steps to ensure that consumers are fully aware of the
footers and their ability to discontinue them.

In an effort to resolve this matter, the parties engaged The Hon. Dickran
Tevrezian,(Ret.) U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California, to
mediate a resolution. The parties were thereby able to negotiate a settlement.

5. HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM PART OF THE SETTLEMENT?

If you are a current AOL member and are not an employee of AOL, their counsel,
or an immediate family member of an employee or their counsel you are in the
class and are part of this settlement.

6. WHAT DOES THE SETTLEMENT PROVIDE AND HOW WILL I RECEIVE THE BENEFITS?

The Settlement provides that all current AOL Members will be provided e-mail
notice of the footers and their ability to discontinue the footers via AOL
Keyword: Footer and http://footer.aol.com, and that, if AOL continues to append
footers to its Members’ e-mails, such notice will be provided both to all new
customers upon their registration of an AOL account and to all current AOL
Members on a regular, periodic basis (every six months for two years).