Drive Avis, Budget, Payless? File by Sunday for Florida toll refunds

Sunday’s the deadline for refunds under a state settlement on Florida toll charges that involve more than $1 million with Avis, Budget and Payless.

For a claim form, click here by Jan. 7. For questions during business hours:  850-414-3840.

Who’s eligible? Renters between Jan. 1, 2010 and July 10, 2017 who were charged for e-Toll services and who have not already received a refund.

Many drivers were unaware of the $3.95 daily fee or how to avoid it, only to get a bill for it four to six weeks later, according to the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

The fees were charged as a means to pay for cashless tolls, but consumers could avoid these if driving on routes without tolls or on those that accept cash.

Under a settlement, Avis and related companies agreed to clearly disclose relevant fees and train employees not to tell consumers the only way to pay is through their e-Toll system.


Target data breach: Settlement called largest ever with Fla., states

Retailer Target agreed to improve data security and pay 47 states including Florida $18.5 million, officials said Tuesday.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman called it an “important win” and said it was the largest multi-state settlement to date related to a data breach.

“This data breach jeopardized the financial information of millions of Target customers in Florida and across the nation,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. “Under our multistate settlement announced today, Target consumers are now better protected from cyberattacks.”

Other lawsuits with private attorneys representing consumers have produced higher amounts, such as $19.5 million announced last year to settle a 2014 Home Depot data breach.

Target’s 2013 data breach affected more than 41 million customer payment card accounts and exposed contact information for more than 60 million customers. A company statement said Target was “pleased to bring this issue to a resolution for everyone involved.”

The Target settlement agreement requires the retailer to maintain a comprehensive information security program and to employ an officer responsible for executing it, plus hire an independent, qualified third-party to conduct a security assessment.

In addition, it requires Target to maintain appropriate encryption policies and wall off its cardholder data from the rest of its computer network, state officials said. Earlier Target agreed to provide free credit monitoring to potential victims.


Abilify drug marketing charges settled with Florida, 42 states

Florida and 42 other states announced Thursday a $19.5 million settlement with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. related to the alleged improper marketing of the drug Abilify to certain elderly patients and children.

“With this multistate settlement, consumers will be armed with better information about medication that could endanger their health,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.

doc-with-drugsAbilify, the brand name for the prescription drug aripiprazole, was initially approved for treating schizophrenia, officials noted.

A complaint by Florida officials alleged the company promoted Abilify for use in elderly patients with symptoms consistent with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease despite a lack of federal approval for those uses. In 2006, Abilify received a boxed warning that such patients who are treated with antipsychotic drugs have an increased risk of death, state officials said.

In addition, the complaint asserted the company promoted Abilify for uses in children in ways that minimized and misrepresented the antipsychotic drug’s risks.

A settlement agreement requires the company to agree to guidelines for promoting “off-label” uses.

In a statement, Bristol-Myers Squibb  said it “denies any wrongdoing, and we are pleased to put this matter behind us so that we can focus on making transformational medicines for patients battling serious diseases.”

The company said it “chose this path to achieve a prompt and full resolution of potential state consumer protection act claims stemming from a multi-state coalition investigation relating to the marketing of Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic medication, which Bristol-Myers Squibb has not marketed since 2013.”

This settlement awaits court approval.

VW settlement: Can it win back driver trust?

VW bug for saleVolkswagen has agreed to a deal in federal court to repurchase or fix close to 500,000 diesel cars that cheat on emission tests, though Beetle owner Lisa Lowrance of Boynton Beach said Thursday she needs to learn more to judge how much this clears the air.

“I’m waiting to find out details, though it’s hard to have a reaction other than Volkswagen is a deceitful company I don’t have much trust in right now,” she said.

What was publicly revealed Thursday looks promising to some consumer groups, and one South Florida attorney even calls it “unprecedented” as far as he can see. Still, many details and dollar figures have yet to be disclosed and officials in some states warned it doesn’t let VW off the hook for all consequences of its deception.

Federal officials say the car company designed software that turned on certain emission controls during testing but turned them off during normal driving, cranking out up to 40 times the allowable pollutants.

“VW is committed to winning back the trust of its customers, its dealers, regulators and all Americans,” VW attorney Robert Giuffra told the court. He called the deal “good for the consumers, the environment, and good for Volkswagen.”

The deal in federal court “does not in any way resolve the consumer and environmental penalty claims of the states, or the states’ claims for injunctive relief,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

A multistate coalition led by New York and including Florida “continues to vigorously investigate Volkswagen’s misconduct, and will aggressively pursue the recovery of substantial penalties and other appropriate relief,” he said.

The broad outlines seem to include characteristics of a deal consumer advocates have been pushing, said Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C.

“Seven months after news of Volkswagen’s emission scandal broke, we’re glad to hear that there is a ‘framework’ for a settlement in the cases related to VW’s 567,000 fraudulently marketed, illegally polluting cars,” Litt said in a statement. “This framework appears to include all of the elements that a deal should include, but the devil will be in the details.”

Miami attorney Ted Craig, who is not involved in VW litigation but whose firm has defended other companies from suits, said based on information publicly available it looks like no ordinary deal.

“As far as I can tell it is an unprecedented remedy,” Craig said. VW has reason to get things settled, he said: “From a marketing and reputational standpoint, you want to clear up your image as soon as possible.”