Class action launched against auto lender for data breach
Quebec law firm Lex Group Inc. announced Monday it has gained authorization to move forward with a data breach class action dealing with the loss of personal information of customers who in March 2008 leased a Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle from DaimlerChrysler Financial Services Canada Inc., now known as TD Auto Finance Services Inc.
Back in March 2008, a data tape that contained the personal information of all Chrysler Financial vehicle lease customers across Canada was lost — approximately 239,277 customers, the law firm said. The personal information on the lost or stolen tape contained some or all of the following information, according to the firm: the customer's name, address, phone number, social insurance number, date of birth, as well as other information related to the status and history of the customer's credit file with the company.
The customers received a notification letter from Chrysler Financial in March or April of 2008 informing them of the loss of their personal information, but David Assor, attorney and founding partner at Lex Group — the firm bringing the recently authorized class action — said Chrysler Financial left our pertinent information off the original letter, such as the fact the customers’ birth date and credit history with the company could have been on the lost or stolen tape, as well.
The original letter the finance company sent after UPS alerted it the tape was either destroyed or lost in transit can be found in paragraph six of Lex Group’s motion to authorize the class action.
A spokesperson from TD Auto Finance told Auto Remarketing Canada on Monday afternoon, “We are unable to comment on this matter, as it is before the courts.”
On Jan. 19, Justice Lacoursiere of the Superior Court of Quebec authorized the bringing of a class action against defendant TD Auto Finance Services Inc., formally DaimlerChrysler Financial Services. The full judgement from the courts to authorize the class action can be viewed here.
The justice ascribed the status of representative to plaintiff Maxime Belley, to act on behalf of the all persons whose personal information was lost on the aforementioned tape.
All of the almost 240,000 customers potentially impacted by the lost or stolen tape are automatically added to the case unless they choose to be excluded — meaning all customers impacted by the data breach could benefit from the case if the class action succeeds.
The class action will be brought in Montreal, Quebec, and Assor told Auto Remarketing Canada he expected the case to land in court over the next two to three months.
And although all customers impacted by the data breach will be automatically privy to the results of the class action, Assor is encouraging all customers impacted to formally join the class action.
Assor and the Lex Group has been working on this case for many years. In fact, the case started for the firm back in 2008 when it was contacted by worried customers who had received the original letter from Chrysler Financial, which informed them of the breach.
Lex Group then began gathering data and plaintiffs for a class action lawsuit for damages from the data breach. The firm’s first case involved one of the current class members.
“The court agreed this was a valid case to proceed with a class action on all elements except for one: that my client at the time did not have the proper claim herself to proceed. So the court said she wasn’t a proper representative, which is one of the criteria,” Assor explained.
The firm then refiled with another plaintiff who had contacted Assor after the data breach, that being Belley. This was the case that pushed the recent authorization for the class action. Assor said they also had to address motions from TD Auto Finance to dismiss the case.
In the case of Belley, following his receipt of the letter from Chrysler Financial, he found out four vehicles had been purchased in his name in Ontario.
“He was basically the victim of identity theft and started calling different companies and contacted Ontario and Montreal police, and was told that at least one other person had a fraudulent automobile purchase under his name,” Assor said.
And, as aforementioned, Assor said, “The letter (from Chrysler Financial) did not give the whole picture,” as the date of birth and credit history information breach was left out of the original message.
In fact, it was only in the context of the Lex Group's first client’s lawsuit filed in Quebec that the firm was able to examine a representative from the then Chrysler Financial who actually told Assor birth data and credit information was also included in the lost or stolen data tape, he said.
Assor explained his law fim asserts there were a few more issues with the original letter, as well.
“It did not tell them that they would be protected in anyway. Traditionally, in these data breach cases, the company who was breached or who lost information will normally tell the customers, 'We have informed Equifax or TransUnion of the breach, we’ve given your information to the credit agencies, put a fraud alert or some kind of note on your file to protect your from losses.' They didn’t do this,” Assor said. “They were not even told they would indemnify people if they had suffered losses, and that’s why the case was filed.”
Assor explained many of the customers in the case, even those who were not direct victims of identity theft or fraud could have suffered other damages.
“There are other people who luckily may not have suffered from fraud of identity theft, but were worried, and upset at different levels, but they also could have taken measures to protect themselves because they were not offered this by Chrysler Financial at the time,” Assor said. “So, they could have purchased insurance, purchased credit monitoring services, things of that nature, changed their accounts, had to call everyone about automatic payments, and more.”