Oct 292009
 
 October 29, 2009  Business, Court

Tanya Forsheit has an analysis and commentary on an appellate decision that may be of interest to consumers who resent merchants from requesting their zip codes:

On Friday, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, certified for publication its October 8 opinion in Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma, the most recent in a string of decisions regarding California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971, California Civil Code § 1747.08.  On first glance, Pineda appears uneventful.  The Court merely reiterated its December 2008 holding in Party City v. Superior Court, 169 Cal.App.4th 497 (2008), that zip codes are not personal identification information for purposes of the Act, right?  Not so fast.  In fact, the Pineda court added a couple of new wrinkles that are worth a second look.  First, the court reaffirmed its Party City holding even though Pineda specifically alleged that Williams-Sonoma collected the zip code for the purpose of using it and the customer’s name to obtain even MORE personal identification information, the customer’s address, through the use of a “reverse search” database.  Second, the court held that a retailer’s use of a legally obtained zip code to acquire, view, print, distribute or use an address that is otherwise publicly available does not amount to an offensive intrusion of a consumer’s privacy under California law.

[…]

Second, the court examined and rejected plaintiff’s claim that Williams-Sonoma’s conduct constituted an illegal intrusion into her privacy, finding no allegations (a)  that her home address was not otherwise publicly available or (b) of any efforts she made to keep her address private:

Without such facts, using a legally obtained zip code to acquire, view, print, distribute or use an address that is otherwise publicly available does not amount to an offensive intrusion of her privacy.

. . . Even assuming Pineda had [alleged Williams-Sonoma had sold her home address to third parties for profit], we fail to see how selling an address that is otherwise publicly available amounts to “an egregious breach of the social norms underlying the privacy right.” . . .

Additionally, . . . the complaint contains absolutely no facts showing the extent and gravity of the alleged invasion of privacy. Under the facts alleged, the disclosure of Pineda’s address amounted to a trivial invasion of her assumed privacy interest.

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