Toyota Motor Sales, Inc., will not be able to take advantage of a mandatory arbitration clause in an online agreement with a Los Angeles woman because the agreement was obtained by fraud and is therefore entirely void, a California state appeals court has held.
Amber Duick was targeted by Toyota as one of the people who would take on the role of “Player 2” in an interactive ad campaign entitled “Your Other You.” She sued Toyota and its advertising company, Saatchi & Saatchi North America, Inc., in 2009, after Toyota involved her in 2008 in an advertising campaign for its Matrix automobile as an evidently unwitting participant.
Sometime in 2008, Duick clicked a box on a Toyota-sponsored website entitled “Personality Evaluation Terms and Conditions.” The website indicated that by clicking, she was agreeing to participate in a five-day “digital experience through Your Other You,” and that she might receive emails, phone calls, or text messages from Toyota during that period. Duick soon found that instead of a personality test, she received several disconcerting emails from someone identifying himself as “Sebastian Bowler,” which implied that Bowler enjoyed drinking to excess, owned a pit bull, had been running from law enforcement, and had damaged a hotel room. Duick was told that she was liable for the hotel damage, even though she had never been there and had never met Bowler. Finally, at the end of the process, Toyota revealed that this was all made up. It was a prank on Duick that was part of the ad campaign for the Matrix.