Once a customer, always a customer, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in reversing a lower court’s denial to compel arbitration in a Fair Credit Reporting Act case, determining that the defendant was not violating the law when it accessed a former customer’s credit report when he called about obtaining service from the defendant 18 months after he had canceled his contract.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Hearn v. Comcast Cable Communications can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff signed up for services from the defendant in December 2016. When he signed up, the subscriber agreement included an arbitration clause that covered claims that arose before the agreement was entered into and after it was terminated. The plaintiff canceled his service in August 2017. In March 2019, the plaintiff called the defendant and inquired about pricing and obtaining its services again. The plaintiff claims the defendant pulled his credit report during the conversation, which lowered his credit score.
The plaintiff sued, alleging the defendant accessed his credit report without his permission. A District Court judge denied the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, ruling that the arbitration provision of the argument did not apply to the subsequent inquiry.
But the Eleventh Circuit saw it differently. The only reason that the defendant was able to check the plaintiff’s credit score during the phone conversation in question was because it already had the plaintiff’s information in its database. The plaintiff tried to claim he was calling to obtain new services and not to have his former service reconnected, but the defendant’s agreement provides broad language that defines terminate, suspend, and disconnect as not necessarily being mutually exclusive.
The Eleventh Circuit made it clear in its ruling that its position was based on the language in the agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant and not whether the “broad scope” of the arbitration provisions in the agreement are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act.