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Laff v. Best Buy Stores

June 3, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: George W. Lindberg Senior U.S. District Judge

Judge George W. Lindberg


Defendants Best Buy Stores, L.P. and Best Buy Co., Inc. (collectively "Best Buy") have moved to dismiss plaintiff Todd Laff's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

In order to survive Best Buy's motion to dismiss, plaintiff's complaint must provide grounds for entitlement to relief that are more than mere labels and conclusions. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). That is, plaintiff's factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, and the complaint must state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See id. at 555, 570. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007).

In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that Best Buy advertises a "price match guarantee." Under this guarantee, if a customer who purchased a product from Best Buy presented verification that a retail competitor in the same market area offered a lower price on an available product of the same brand and model, Best Buy promised to refund the price difference, plus an additional 10% of that difference, up to thirty days after the purchase. For customers who were about to make a purchase, Best Buy also promised to match local competitors' lower prices. Best Buy communicates this guarantee to consumers in its Sunday circular, on its website, in television commercials, and in its stores on signs and tear pads.

According to the amended complaint, Best Buy also maintains an undisclosed internal policy under which it discourages and denies customers' proper price match requests. For example, plaintiff alleges, Best Buy provides weekly bonuses to its salespeople based, in part, on their denying proper price match requests.

Plaintiff alleges that on February 2, 2006, he purchased a 42-inch wide-screen high definition Samsung television at a Best Buy store in Niles, Illinois. Plaintiff states that he "considered and relied upon Best Buy's price match guarantee in making this shopping decision." Within the applicable time period, he discovered that a Circuit City store located in the same market area as the Niles Best Buy offered a lower price on the same television, which was in stock and available at Circuit City. Plaintiff states that he returned to the Niles Best Buy with Circuit City's print advertisement showing the lower price, and requested the benefit of Best Buy's price match guarantee. Although plaintiff's price match request complied with Best Buy's guarantee, Best Buy refused to honor the request. As a result, plaintiff paid Best Buy's higher price for the television, rather than Circuit City's lower price. Plaintiff also alleges that Best Buy denied his price match requests relating to other products on four other occasions in 2006 and 2007.

Based on these allegations, plaintiff's amended class action complaint asserts the following claims: violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act ("ICFA"), 815 ILCS 505 et seq. (Count I); breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II); common law false advertising (Count IV); and unjust enrichment (Count V). Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief in Counts III and VI. Best Buy has moved to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety.

The Court begins by examining Best Buy's motion to dismiss plaintiff's ICFA claim in Count I. In order to withstand this portion of the motion to dismiss, plaintiff must have adequately alleged the following elements: (1) a deceptive practice by Best Buy; (2) Best Buy's intent that plaintiff rely on the deception; (3) the deception occurred during a course of conduct involving trade or commerce; and (4) actual damage to plaintiff; (5) that was proximately caused by the deception. See Avery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 835 N.E.2d 801, 850 (Ill. 2005). In addition, the parties agree that the heightened pleading standards of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) apply to plaintiff's ICFA claim. Thus, under Rule 9(b), plaintiff must plead the specific circumstances of the fraud he alleges, including "the identity of the person who made the misrepresentation, the time, place and content of the misrepresentation, and the method by which the misrepresentation was communicated to the plaintiff." Windy City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin. Servs., Inc., 536 F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1078 (7th Cir. 1997)); see also DiLeo v. Ernst & Young, 901 F.2d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 1990) (describing this particularity requirement as "the who, what, when, where, and how: the first paragraph of any newspaper story").

Best Buy argues that plaintiff fails to adequately plead his ICFA claim because he fails to allege sufficient facts to establish that he was entitled to the price matches he requested. Best Buy challenges plaintiff's claim relating to his 2006 purchase of a Samsung television, by noting that plaintiff fails to:

* identify the precise model of the television he bought from Best Buy;

* plead that the television was available at Circuit City at the time he made his price match request;

* identify the Circuit City's specific location; or

* specify what the lower price offered by ...

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