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CA Supreme Court Says Cashier Can't Ask for Zip Code During Credit Card Sale

submitted on February 18, 2011 by HouTex in "Stores / Merchants"
Last week California’s Supreme Court ruled that a zip code is personal information, and asking for a zip code during a credit card transaction infringes on consumer rights. The move is a big blow to retailers who stored the numbers, and profited from using and selling that information.

The ruling resulted from a suit filed by an aggrieved consumer who was asked for her ZIP code while making a purchase at a Williams-Sonoma store and supplied it. Later she began receiving Williams-Sonoma mailings and learned that the store had used her ZIP code and name to track down the rest of her address and put her into its database.

This may prompt action in a dozen other states, where similar laws are already in place.
Since the ruling, consumers have filed class action suits against major retailers in California, including Target, Wal-Mart and Victoria’s Secret. The penalty for requesting such information can be anywhere between a penny and $1,000.

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  • 104687
    Posted by honesta on February 18, 2011 [reply] 0 0
    more power to the consumer. nice. hate if when retailers do this kind of ID theft activity
  • 104688
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    Posted by sandyshore on February 18, 2011 [reply] 0 0
    I like this idea from the article

    One of our editors has historically given the zip code for Wrigley Field in Chicago.

    That number is 60613
  • 104696
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    Posted by CouponNut on February 18, 2011
    [reply] 2 0
    I just use New York, New York zip code 10011 instead of mine!
  • 104699
    Posted by YanBz on February 18, 2011 [reply] 0 0
    Some self serve gas stations ask for your zip code. What about them? Do they fall under this ruling?

    As of now, if you give a zip code that doesn't match your billing address the credit card transaction will not go through... I always assumed it was done to reduce fraud.
    • HouTex
      Posted by HouTex on February 19, 2011 [reply] 0 0
      Yes, you are right, they are trying to reduce fraud and use of stolen cards. They are not affected by this ruling. The self-serve gas stations are only verifying that it's your card (zip code matches your billing address) and do not store the information. According to the article, that request goes directly to the bank that issues your card and is not retained by the service station.
  • 104701
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    Posted by sandyshore on February 18, 2011 [reply] 0 0
    RedBbox & Blockbuster kiosks also require this information in my area.
    • HouTex
      Posted by HouTex on February 19, 2011 [reply] 0 0
      This is another case where they are just trying to avoid fraud with use of stolen cards.
  • 104705
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    Posted by midget on February 18, 2011 [reply] 0 0
    I never saw a problem in providing my zip code. Sometimes I'm asked for my email addy and I always decline to give that to them.

    If you're paying by cash and they're asking for zip code I don't see how that could get you address from that and if you're paying by debit/cc don't that have access to that info anyway (name, address, zip code)?
    • HouTex
      Posted by HouTex on February 19, 2011 [reply] 0 0
      Actually, it's still legal for them to ask for zip code in a cash transaction.
      That information can be useful to know what trade area they reach.
  • 104712
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    Posted by mooncow728 on February 18, 2011 [reply] 0 0
    Zip codes don't bother me to give out. I always just assumed they wanted to know which area they have the most customers from. When they ask for my phone number is what bothers me. I shouldn't have to give out my phone number unless I want to but there's numerous stores around here that require it (JCP, Kohl's, Party City, etc.)
    • midget
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      Posted by midget on February 19, 2011 [reply] 0 0
      Here in cali you're not required to give out your phone number.

      We have a lot of tough laws here in Cali. A lot of stupid ones too.

      I remember looking at the some of the new laws passed at the start of the year for Cali and we had hundreds of them passed while other states only had a handful.

      No wonder our state is bankrupt - to many restrictions and big brother constantly watching the small people Mr Green
    • 104724
    • HouTex
      Posted by HouTex on February 19, 2011 [reply] 0 0
      The CA law was on the books for years (since 1990) without any attempt to enforce it. Passing the law is only the first step, and in this case a ruling was made now as a result of the lawsuit against Williams-Sonoma.
  • 104742
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    Posted by deathbynosleep on February 19, 2011 [reply] 0 0
    I could care less if someone knows my zip code. They should be required to ask for ID when using a credit card...that would cut down on fraud.
    • roxytang
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      Posted by roxytang on February 19, 2011 [reply] 0 0
      I don't care about the zip code either. But when they ask for my phone number or email, I just say I don't have one.
  • 104756
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    Posted by clover on February 19, 2011 [reply] 0 0
    When I get asked at Whole Foods for my zip code I don't mind. I am hoping that they will move one closer to my area. Where I live is one of the busiest sections in Orlando and often the busiest in the state for some of the retail shops in the area.
  • 104938
    Posted by fleurette on February 20, 2011
    [reply] 2 0
    I hope Safeway takes a hint from this ruling. They train the checkout clerks to say "Thank you Ms. So & So" as they hand over the receipt. Safeway claims that customers like the personal touch it adds to the transaction, but I consider it a total invasion of privacy to have my name loudly announced to everyone in line behind me.

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