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Newlin v. Comcast Cable of Indiana, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

March 24, 2014

JOHN R. NEWLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMCAST CABLE OF INDIANA, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, District Judge.

The Plaintiff, John R. Newlin, sued Defendant Comcast Cable of Illinois/Indiana/ Michigan, Inc., for a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) after the Defendant checked the Plaintiff's credit. The Defendant does not deny that it obtained the consumer report. The issue presented by this litigation and the Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF No. 20] is whether the Defendant had a "permissible purpose" under the FCRA for obtaining the report. Summary judgment is appropriate if the facts supported by materials in the record show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

In August 2012, the Plaintiff anticipated buying a new home for which he would need to obtain a mortgage. He wanted to buy cable services for his existing home, as well as any new home he would be purchasing. However, the Plaintiff did not want Comcast, the anticipated cable provider, to obtain his credit report out of concern that such an inquiry would negatively impact his credit score. On August 6, 2012, the Plaintiff contacted Comcast using the online instant messaging services available through the company's website. After he had selected the cable television services he wished to purchase, the following exchange took place between the Plaintiff and the customer service representative who was helping him:

Atul kumar(Mon Aug 6 15:19:32 CDT 2012)> You have chosen a great package with excellent features and benefits that I am certain you will enjoy. So let me go ahead and provide you with the best customer service experience as well.
Atul kumar(Mon Aug 6 15:19:47 CDT 2012)> Comcast has recently adopted stricker [sic] Federal guidelines to protect our customers from Identity theft. In order for me to create your Comcast account, I'm required to do a Credit Check. May I have the following information in order to process a credit check. Your complete Social Security Number?
Guest_(Mon Aug 6 14:20:42 CDT 2012)> on your website it says that I can pay a deposit of $50 and not have a credit check performed. I would like to do this
Atul kumar(Mon Aug 6 15:20:58 CDT 2012)> Ok
Atul kumar(Mon Aug 6 15:21:20 CDT 2012)> Please allow me few moment.
Atul kumar(Mon Aug 6 15:28:55 CDT 2012)> I will process the order but you need to verify the ID at the time of installation by submitting valid ID proof to the Techinicians [sic].

(Aff. of John R. Newlin ¶ 7, ECF No. 21-1.) The Plaintiff paid $50 to Comcast by credit card that same day.

Comcast obtained a copy of the Plaintiff's consumer report.

ANALYSIS

The Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that Comcast violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(f) and 1681n when it obtained the Plaintiff's consumer report "willfully without a permissible purpose." (Compl. ¶ 13.a, ECF No. 1.) Section 1681b(f) provides that a person "shall not use or obtain a consumer report for any purpose" except those purposes that are "authorized" under the statute. The authorized, or permissible, purposes for obtaining a report are provided in § 1681b(a), and allow reports to be provided to persons who have "a legitimate business need for the information... in connection with a business transaction that is initiated by the consumer." 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(a)(3)(F)(i). A person who willfully fails ...


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