March 28, 2011

In a decision that is sending waves across the national retail industry, the California Supreme Court recently held that ZIP codes constitute “personal identification information” under the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act. The decision, Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma Stores Inc., generally will expose retailers who request such information from customers paying with a credit card to penalties of up to $1,000 per request. It already has triggered literally more than one hundred putative class action lawsuits in a matter of weeks against retailers doing business in California, including those who have relied on earlier lower court opinions blessing such information requests. And it likely will chill retailers’ marketing and anti-fraud efforts, while impeding customer efforts to obtain the full benefits of the retailers’ services and products.