Second Circuit Holds Email Notice of Arbitration Agreement Insufficient


On September 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that three plaintiff consumers were not bound to arbitrate certain claims related to their purchase of a discount club membership because email notice of the arbitration clause was insufficient. Schnabel v. Trilegiant Corp., No. 11-1311 WL 3871366 (2nd Cir. Sep. 7, 2012). On appeal of the district court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration, the membership club marketer argued that it provided the plaintiffs with notice of an arbitration provision (i) through a hyperlink appearing on the page the plaintiffs would have seen before enrolling in a service offered by the defendants and (ii) through an email sent to the plaintiffs after their enrollment. The Second Circuit disagreed and affirmed the district court’s decision. According to the court, the email notice containing the arbitration clause “was both temporally and spatially decoupled from the plaintiffs’ enrollment in and use of [the membership]; the term was delivered after initial enrollment and . . . members such as the plaintiffs would not be forced to confront the terms while enrolling in or using the service or maintaining their memberships.” As such, “the email did not provide sufficient notice to the plaintiffs of the arbitration provision, and the plaintiffs therefore could not have assented to it solely as a result of their failure to cancel their enrollment in the defendants’ service.” The court did not provide a substantive ruling on notice via a hyperlink, holding instead that the defendants forfeited their argument by failing to raise it in the district court.