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San Jose California Court Denies Citibank's Motion to Compel Arbitration

Savage v. Citibank N.A., et al., Case No. 14-cv-03633-BLE (N.D. Cal. May 12, 2015)

Mr. Savage brought suit against Citibank, Department Stores National Bank, and FDS Bank after they repeatedly called him to try to collect a Macy’s credit card debt despite his written and verbal requests that they stop contacting him.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Savage alleged that Defendants’ unfair collection practices violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and constituted intrusion upon seclusion.

· The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits persons from calling using automated telephone equipment or an artificial or prerecorded voice to a cell phone or any service for which the recipient is charged for the call, or after the consumer says to stop.

· The Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits unfair and deceptive debt collection practices, including harassing telephone calls.

· Intrusion upon Seclusion occurs where one intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs where such intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

Here, Mr. Savage alleged that Defendants violated these laws by repeatedly calling him, including calling him over-100 times in less than one month, on his cell phone in attempt to collect a debt despite his verbal and written requests that they stop. In addition to the actual, statutory, and punitive damages available under those claims, Mr. Savage also sought relief under Cal. Civ. Code § 3345, which allows senior citizens such as Mr. Savage to recover treble damages (or three times the amount of damages) where defendants are found to have violated the law.

Even though the debt being at issue in Mr. Savage’s case concerned his Macy’s credit card account, Citibank tried to compel arbitration based upon a credit card agreement between Mr. Savage and Sears relating to his Sears credit card (issued by Citibank), which provided for arbitration regarding:

All claims relating to your account, a prior related account, or our relationship . . . including Claims regarding the application, enforceability, or interpretation of this Agreement and this arbitration provision.

Based on this agreement Mr. Savage had with Sears, Citibank argued that the term “our relationship” covered all interactions between Citibank and Mr. Savage, regardless of whether it had anything to do with the Sears credit card account. Judge Freeman of the Northern District of California (San Jose) rejected Citibank’s argument and found:

there is no basis for concluding that in accepting the Sears card agreements, Plaintiff consented to arbitrate all claims that could ever arise between him” and Citibank. According to the Court, to accept Citibank’s “interpretation that the ‘our relationship’ language extends to any interaction between Plaintiff and Citi would mean that one credit card agreement could be used to dictate the parties’ ‘relationship’ ad infinitum, regardless of the subject matter of their future interactions. That is an absurd consequence.

As a result, Citibank’s Motion to Compel was denied and Mr. Savage is currently litigating his claims against it in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose).