Alex Bastian / (415) 314-4848 / Alex.Bastian@sfgov.org
San Francisco—Today, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced that Care.com will pay $1 million in civil penalties and restitution. Most importantly, the company will also be subject to permanent injunctions to settle a consumer action accusing it of various unlawful business practices. The lawsuit was prosecuted jointly by the District Attorneys of the City and County of San Francisco and the County of Marin, on behalf of the People of the State of California. A stipulated judgment formalizing the agreement was signed by the Honorable James T. Chou, Judge of the Marin County Superior Court.
“By misrepresenting their sex offender background checks, Care.com gave families a false sense of security about the stranger they were inviting into their homes,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “That practice will end immediately and consumers will be better off because of that.”
Care.com, a publicly traded company, sells subscriptions to various services that allow families seeking care for children, seniors, and pets to find and pay for prospective caregivers. As part of its services, Care.com offers its customers the ability to purchase background checks to determine whether a prospective caregiver is listed on a sex offender registry.
The District Attorneys allege that Care.com falsely represented that its background checks included a search of the National Sex Offender Registry and that its higher priced background checks included more robust background checks than its lower priced background checks. In fact, the National Sex Offender Registry is a database maintained by the FBI that is only available to law enforcement, not Care.com or other third parties, and all of Care.com’s background checks included a search of the same publicly accessible national sex offender website.
The People also allege that Care.com unlawfully enrolled its customers in auto-renewal subscriptions without obtaining the customers’ affirmative consent and without providing various disclosures required by law.
The settlement includes the following key terms: (1) Care.com will pay $700,000 in civil penalties, (2) Care.com will pay $300,000 in direct restitution to customers who purchased Care.com’s higher priced background checks, (3) Care.com will be required to state that its background checks may not reflect an individual’s entire sex offender history and it will be enjoined from representing that its background checks include a search of the National Sex Offender Registry, and (4) Care.com must notify customers that they can cancel their subscriptions before they automatically renew.
“Companies should always make sure that their representations regarding the products they sell are accurate, but this is especially important where the representations relate to public safety,” said Assistant District Attorney Theis Finlev. “I am very pleased that, as part of this settlement, Care.com has agreed to clearly describe the limitations in sex-offender background checks available to consumers.”
San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Theis Finlev and Marin County Deputy District Attorney Andres Perez prosecuted the case.