Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
On July 13, 2020, Marin County District Attorney Lori E. Frugoli announced a $1 million settlement with Care.com after an investigation discovered unlawful business practices related to background checks on caregivers and auto-renewal memberships, according to a news release on the County of Marin, California website.
Frugoli’s office prosecuted the matter with the Office of the District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco. The settlement resulted in a judgment filed in Marin County Superior Court that ordered Care.com to pay $1 million and included a permanent injunction prohibiting future unlawful conduct.
“Choosing the right caregiver for a loved one is one of the most important and stressful decisions families will ever make, and my office will continue to ensure that businesses providing caregiver-related services are transparent and forthright when making representations to the public,” Frugoli stated in the news release.
The District Attorneys claimed Care.com made false representations that its background checks offered to customers for a separate fee included a search of the National Sex Offender Registry maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that is accessible only by law enforcement. Under the judgment, Care.com must:
- Pay $700,000 in civil penalties;
- Pay $300,000 in restitution to consumers who purchased Care.com’s highest level of background checks;
- Provide customers with three months of no-cost membership if the customer previously cancelled or downgraded their membership claiming they were unaware of the auto-renewal terms of their membership when they signed up;
- Make clear and conspicuous disclosures regarding the terms of any auto-renewal plans prior to a customer entering into any such agreement;
- Send reminder notices to customers prior to any upcoming auto-renewal charges;
- Make cancellations more convenient for consumers;
- Be prohibited from representing that their background checks include information from the National Sex Offender Registry; and
- Make disclaimers that sex offender searches are subject to limitations and may not reflect an individual’s entire sex offender history.
Headquartered in Massachusetts, Care.com offers a digital platform to assist families in searching for, managing, and paying for family care needs as well as providing caregivers access to employment opportunities. The company’s services have been offered through free and paid memberships providing varying levels of services.
A spokesperson for Care.com said the company “is committed to providing clear explanations of our services to consumers and believes it has done so consistently. We voluntarily made changes a number of years ago to address the concerns the district attorneys have voiced,” KPIX CBS Channel 5 in San Francisco reported.
The statement from Care.com continued: “We maintain that Care.com has always appropriately described the comprehensiveness of our products, including the automatically renewing nature of its subscriptions and that the background checks we have made available have always included databases of sex offender histories.”
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