Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
So. Cal. Gas Co. v. P.U.C.
These original proceedings involve efforts by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC or the Commission) to discover whether the political activities of Southern California Gas Company (SCG) are funded by SCG’s shareholders, which is permissible, or ratepayers, which is not. The Commission propounded several discovery requests (called “Data Requests”) on SCG, and when SCG failed fully to comply, moved to compel further responses that ultimately resulted in an order to comply or face substantial penalties. SCG seeks a writ of mandate directing the Commission to rescind its order on the ground that the discovery requests infringe on SCG’s First Amendment rights. The Second Appellate District granted the petition and held that SCG has shown that disclosure of the requested information will impact its First Amendment rights, and the Commission failed to show that its interest in determining whether SCG’s political efforts are impermissibly funded outweighs that impact. The court reasoned that because SCG demonstrated that a threat to its constitutional rights exists, the burden shifted to the Commission to demonstrate that the data requests serve and are narrowly tailored to a compelling governmental interest. However, the PAO’s discovery inquiries into all sources of funding for SCG’s lobbying activities go beyond ratepayer expenditures. Insofar as the requests seek information about shareholder expenditures, they exceed the PAO’s mandate to obtain the lowest possible costs for ratepayers and its authority to compel disclosure of information necessary for that task. The requests, therefore, are not carefully tailored to avoid unnecessary interference with SCG’s protected activities. View "So. Cal. Gas Co. v. P.U.C." on Justia Law
Uber Technologies Pricing Cases
Taxi companies and taxi medallion owners sued Uber, alleging violations of the Unfair Practices Act’s (UPA) prohibition against below-cost sales (Bus & Prof. Code, 17043) and of the Unfair Competition Law (section 17200). The UPA makes it unlawful “for any person engaged in business within this State to sell any article or product at less than the cost thereof to such vendor, or to give away any article or product, for the purpose of injuring competitors or destroying competition” but does not apply “[t]o any service, article or product for which rates are established under the jurisdiction of the [California] Public Utilities Commission [(CPUC)] . . . and sold or furnished by any public utility corporation.” Uber is a “public utility corporation” under section 17024 and is subject to CPUC’s jurisdiction. CPUC has conducted extensive regulatory proceedings in connection with Uber’s business but has not yet established the rates for any Uber service or product.The trial court ruled the exemption applies when the CPUC has jurisdiction to set rates, regardless of whether it has yet done so, and dismissed the case. The court of appeal affirmed, reaching “the same conclusion as to the applicability of section 17024(1) as have three California federal district courts, two within the last year, in cases alleging identical UPA claims against Uber.” View "Uber Technologies Pricing Cases" on Justia Law
Gomez v. Campbell-Ewald Co.
Plaintiff filed suit on behalf of himself and a putative class, alleging claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 42 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii), that Campbell-Ewald instructed or allowed a third-party vendor to send unsolicited text messages on behalf of the Navy, with whom Campbell-Ewald had a marketing contract. The district court granted summary judgment to Campbell-Ewald under the doctrine of derivative sovereign immunity. The court rejected Campbell-Ewald's claim that the personal and putative class claims were mooted by petitioner's refusal to accept the settlement offer; Campbell-Ewald's constitutional claims were unavailing where the company relied upon a flawed application of First Amendment principles; the TCPA imposes vicarious liability where an agency relationship, as defined by federal common law, is established between the defendant and a third-party caller; and the application of the doctrine of derivative sovereign immunity is inapplicable in this case. Because Campbell-Ewald failed to demonstrate that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gomez v. Campbell-Ewald Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Communications Law, Consumer Law, Government Contracts