State appeals court says electronic bank statement constituted notice of new terms
On May 4, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that a plaintiff had constructive notice of updated terms and conditions in her membership agreement with a defendant credit union, which included an arbitration agreement with an opt-out provision. Plaintiff entered into a finance agreement with an auto dealer, which assigned the agreement to the defendant. To complete the assignment, the plaintiff opened a savings account and signed an agreement, in which she consented to receiving and accepting statements, notices, and disclosures electronically. A few years later, the defendant updated its membership agreement’s terms to include the arbitration provision and sent notices to members with their monthly bank statements. Plaintiff received an email with information about the updates and was given an opportunity to opt-out of the arbitration provision in writing within 30 days. Records show that the plaintiff received the email but did not open it. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s class action complaint and compel arbitration, but the district court concluded that the plaintiff did not have actual or constructive notice of the arbitration agreement. In reversing the district court’s ruling, the Court of Appeals wrote “we do not deem the notice as being buried or hidden in [defendant’s] email, or the surrounding information as cluttering the screen to the extent that a reasonable person would be distracted from the important notice about the ‘updated ... Membership and Account Agreement.’” The Court of Appeals also disagreed with plaintiff’s argument that her “express and affirmative consent” was required for the defendant to add the arbitration provision to the terms, stating that “[u]nder the totality of the circumstances, [plaintiff] is deemed to have assented to the addition of the arbitration agreement” as she was constructively notified of the change, did not exercise her right to opt out, and continued to use her account.
While concurring with the majority, one of the judges questioned whether the “current ‘reasonable person’ standard that courts use for constructive notice is outdated given the economic realities of the digital age.” The judge asked whether the monthly bank statement has “significantly diminished in importance” or is becoming obsolete since consumers are able to check bank account balances and transactions “at any time and from any location.”