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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