A class action lawsuit has been filed against SeaWorld. The dispute arises out of SeaWorld’s automatic renewal of annual park passes purchased through its EZ Pay system. Customers can purchase an annual pass by making two payments in the first month of having the pass, and then the remaining ten payments are paid monthly throughout the remainder of the year.
The plaintiffs have sued for breach of contract and violation of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.
The plaintiffs claim breach of contract because SeaWorld “did not possess the contractual right to renew the contract and/or charge any additional amount after the pass was paid in full.” The plaintiffs argue that their annual park passes were renewed by SeaWorld on a monthly basis without their permission, because the passes were paid for in less than twelve months
According to the plaintiffs SeaWorld violated the following clause in its annual pass contract:
EXCEPT FOR ANY PASSES PAID IN LESS THAN 12 MONTHS, THIS CONTRACT WILL RENEW AUTOMATICALLY ON A MONTH-TO-MONTH BASIS FOLLOWING THE PAYMENT PERIOD until I terminate it.
The court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment as to liability for the breach of contract claim. The court found that under the terms of the renewal provision, SeaWorld was obligated to terminate the EZ Pay contract and instead breached the renewal provision by continuing to claim the benefits of the EZ Pay contract.
The plaintiffs claim SeaWorld violated 15 U.S.C. § 1693e(a) of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act which provides: “A preauthorized electronic fund transfer from a consumer’s account may be authorized by the consumer only in writing, and a copy of such authorization shall be provided to the consumer when made.” The plaintiff’s argue that SeaWorld failed to obtain preauthorization for bank-account and debit-card transfers made after the EZ Pay contract expired.
SeaWorld’s motion for summary judgment was denied. The court found that there was no material dispute as to whether or not the transfers were “preauthorized electronic fund transfers” as defined under EFTA. The court found that SeaWorld violated the EFTA because it continued collecting monthly payments from customer accounts after EZ Pay passes were “paid in less than 12 months” and did so by “electronic fund transfer.”