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Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins

Topic(s): Consumer Justice
Scope of Statutory Rights and Remedies
Docket: 13-1339



The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides that consumer-reporting agencies must use reasonable procedures to assure that reports they issue about consumers are accurate. If a consumer-reporting agency’s willful failure to follow reasonable procedures leads to an inaccurate report about a consumer, FCRA provides that consumer with the right to sue for statutory damages, regardless of whether the statutory violation results in any other harm to the consumer. In this case, the consumer-reporting agency, Spokeo, argued that the plaintiff, who was the subject of an inaccurate report, lacks “standing” sufficient to create a “case or controversy” that federal courts may hear under Article III of the Constitution and that the lawsuit is therefore improper. In an amicus brief, Public Citizen, along with AARP and MFY Legal Services, Inc., argued that, in enacting FCRA, Congress acted well within its authority to define legal rights and to provide remedies for their violation. The brief explained that Congress crafted FCRA to remedy the concrete harm of inaccurate credit reporting, which is an injury similar to those traditionally recognized at common law.

In May, 2016, the Court vacated and remanded the case. The majority held that a statute creating a remedy for violations and conferring a right of action on an individual to obtain that remedy is not by itself sufficient to support Article III standing: a concrete and particularized injury is still required. The Court explained, however, that the injury need not be tangible. The injury may arise from the violation of a procedural right, and a risk of injury may suffice.

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