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California’s High Court Rules That Stores Can’t Request ZIP Codes

February 17, 2011 by  

California's high court rules that stores can't request ZIP codesRetailers do not have the right to ask consumers for their ZIP code while completing credit card transactions, according to a ruling by the California Supreme Court.

According to CNN, California's high court of seven judges unanimously stated that the practice of requesting customers' ZIP codes infringe on their privacy rights. The ruling, which overrules previous decisions by trial and appeals courts in the Golden State, pointed to a 1971 State law that prohibits businesses from asking credit card users from information that could be used to track them down.

Requesting ZIP codes "would permit retailers to obtain indirectly what they are clearly prohibited from obtaining directly," the ruling stated, quoted by the media outlet.

Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association, told the news provider that he was surprised by the decision, which he called "terrible." He added that it is ironic that a practice that aims partly to protect customers from fraud has been ruled illegal.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the lawsuit was originally filed by Jessica Pineda, who alleges that she provided her ZIP code to a retailer in 2008, then she began receiving catalogs in the mail from the company.

Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told the news source that she supports the court's decision because an individual's ZIP code, when combined with other personal data such as birthday and sex, can reveal other private information about a consumer.

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  • s c

    It almost sounds as though a breath of fresh air has swept through California’s ‘High Court.’ While their decision is right, they’d accomplish more by tracking down every SOB who uses scanners to steal credit card info from unsuspecting credit card holders.
    At the same time, someone might inform our elected retards in Washington who don’t know that the Spanish-American War is over, food stamp fraud is rampant, the Fed is illegitimate, Queen Nancy needs to refund tons of money to the government for transporting friends, family and booze on a military jet and the sad fact that we’re screwed via a prez who refuses to close our open borders.
    Anybody still think that crime doesn’t pay?

    • BobS

      I don’t understand the way Washington thinks. Are there not any hard working, honest, God-fearing, do what is right people we can elect to send there? When someone like that does run the majority says he or she is a hate monger and crazy and what they stand for will never happen. A lot of the things wrong in Washington is the American voters fault for not voting the bums out.

      • Christin

        No, Bob S… not everything is the Voters, fault. Some American citizens and illegals are stupid sheeple, but many are bright and in the know.

        I have read many articles with VOTER FRAUD going back decades.

        In MANY/MOST states illegal aliens have been voting for many decades.

        Many districts nation wide have been caught with voter fraud where there are fake names, bogus addresses where a field sits and no house exists, and multiple votes are made from one address where no one lives, not to mention illegal out of state votes and double voting on Absentee Ballot and then again in person.

        Also there is the problem with Gerrymandering Districts that are set with only Liberal voters so that only the Liberal, Socialist, Demo Candidate can always win.

        And thirdly on a grander scale, I believe the votes that We the People often make do not produce the candidate we have all voted for. For instance, I do not think most people voted for Progressive RINO John McCain for President in the Primary, but yet he was the winner picked by TPTB I’ll bet.

        You are right … things are UPSIDE DOWN. The Godless immoral are in control and they are the opposite of God who is LIFE, TRUTH, HOPE, and LOVE.

      • Granny Mae

        California can’t ask for your zip code? Years ago they use to ask for your SS# and that posed a big stink. What really bothers me now though is the use of those new cell phones that can be used to scan your credit card ! Now how in the world are they going to control that one ! You hand you card to the clerk in the dept. store and while she is scanning your card on the register she picks up her cell phone and runs your card through the bottom of her cell phone. There is always something !

    • Carlucci

      Apparently crime definitely pays if you are in the right social strata.

      The following makes my blood boil. Check it out:

      • http://?? Joe H.

        I went to your site and by its own manifesto, it could be nothing more than an opinion gab fest! You have no knowledge of WHO writes their pieces, it could just be somebodies opinion!

    • SiliconDoc

      Just yesterday I was informed of some hundreds of millions of dollars scandal that Obama was called out on for pumping gov money to friends and family, then another where some Republican Congress member found 4 billion of 10 or 14 billion MISSING in some other lib payout scam for Katrina or HUD or something…
      “Luckily Obama was caught on that one” was the quote so I guess since a single republican did a little budget paperwork checking, the 4 billion dollar scamaroo was halted…
      No more specifics, I haven’t look further and don’t remember the Congressional name, but isn’t that the status quo on so much of it now.
      Ticks me off they railroaded Tom Delay “the hammer” because he was hammering the communists and they had that left wing fruitcake Ronnie Earle going on his insane witchhunt for years with all sorts of scams to pull it off… then finally they got something “to stick”.
      So we have political prosecutions that are left dem party sided all the time now – since honor and justice for dems is “getting their way at any cost” and breaking any law moral or otherwise to accomplish the ends.
      I think the only thing holding this nation together is the decades before us when anything goes wasn’t the standard rule…

      • Granny Mae


        If you look you will see that obama is trying real hard to put us in such financial quick sand that we will never get out. If they break us that way they can just take over and set up what they want the way they want it. It is no longer a mystery they are doing everything in plain sight ! Choose carefully this coming election and work hard to get everyone you know to vote out this pres. we are stuck with right now !

  • jason wipf

    I know they use this not only to verify billing of the c/c for security of the user but also to track customers for internal marketing studies. For these reasons I’m ok with it as long as its voluntary and the Zip codes are requested NOT required in order for the purchase to happen. Here in Texas they do require it for gas and I like that incase my card were stolen the crook would not be able to use for gas and everywhere else I just tell them “no thank you, I just wanna buy it” and they finalize my sale no problem.

  • Robin from Arcadia, IN

    I guess I fall into the clueless bunch. I assumed it was for marketing purposes. I thought stores were just wanting to know how far from them, or how close to them that there customers were. It just seems like the simple things such as this can be turned around into something sinister. We sure live in a screwed up world!

    • s c

      We are surrounded by data miners, Robin. Uncle Scam is the worst offender. Uncle Scammy looks the other way while businesses lust after all the info they can get on the American people. Even the internet functions as a gigantic date miner.
      The idea that marketing is behind what credit card firms do is bunk. They could have made that claim 30 years ago, but now it’s akin to a lib who wants to control everyone and do it in the name of ‘peace and security.’
      As for the idea that a credit card company wants info to help ‘prevent fraud’ borders on bunk. They think identity theft is a child’s game similar to Monopoly. They don’t have a clue. We’re on our own in trying to hang on to our identity.

    • http://?? Joe H.

      Robin and sc,
      In Ohio, they do this even on cash purchases due to the difference in counties taxes. People were going to the next county to buy, say furniture, and it would cost them less because of lower sales tax. Well they now ask for your zip and if it is in a higher tax area, the register is programmed to charge the rate in your county or the county of the store which ever is higher.

      • Granny Mae

        Joe H

        What! You have got to be kidding me. That is robery. They are removing every little thing that the poor can do to keep their head above water any more ! How disgusting !

  • Kilgore Trout

    In this same vein is the expanded use of scanning driver’s licenses when you make purchases of beer or cigarettes at the store. It has grown to the point where if you don’t let them scan your license, you can make the purchase. Now I understand the need to be able to ascertain the age of the purchaser, but, I am 60 years old and there is no way that I look underage! Why is this becoming so widespread?

  • Kilgore Trout

    In this same vein is the expanded use of scanning driver’s licenses when you make purchases of beer or cigarettes at the store. It has grown to the point where if you don’t let them scan your license, you can’t make the purchase. Now I understand the need to be able to ascertain the age of the purchaser, but, I am 60 years old and there is no way that I look underage! Why is this becoming so widespread?

    • JLC

      Kilgore, I am 86 years old, and would be flattered if someone should ask me for ID when I purchase a bottle of beer.

  • http://PersonalLibertyDigest Randy 131

    Yet the airport sexual pat-down assaults, and nude pictorials through harmful irradiation, on our women, children, aged, and infirmed citizens, without probable cause, is considered constitutional, even with what the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution states and mandates. And this in the name of security for which there is another less evasive and much more proven secure and competent method, that doesn’t violate the US Constitution, but ignored because of the liberal belief in political correctness which inhibits common sense, called profiling. Profiling has been proven to work over the many years it has been employed by the Israelis, and what the TSA does has been proven a failure in many instances, but gives the public a false sense of security, which is apparently the TSA’s goal. We sure live in a screwed up world!

    • Jim W.

      Actually it is not considered “Constitutional”. This security theater has not yet made it to the federal or appellate court or the Supreme Court so that can be tested. I do believe that will come along with some of the other BS that is going on.

  • Jules59

    Actually, it is the credit card company asking for this information. It is to help prevent fraud caused by someone stealing your credit card. Get a clue.

    • dhellew2

      It’s a two edged sword. You give the zip code to the credit card company to verify you are the card holder but then you gave the number to an not so honest employee who can now prove they are you, so even the credit card company is not protected from fraud….

      There is an old saying; “the purpose of a lock is to keep an honest man honest”

      Unfortunately we live in an Obama world where nothing is sacred, where the leaders are the most corrupt.

      • Christin

        Speaking of locks… someone just told me today that you can not put locks on your suitcases anymore when traveling by plane (after viewing the TSA person arrested for stealing $40K from a suitcase)… is that true?

        So… we can NOT protect ourselves in our home, on our property or when traveling… because of government control laws.

        • Jim W.

          Yes that is true, and there are several lawsuits in the system tied to who stole things from the luggage, TSA or the airlines after TSA removed the locks. TS says the Airlines and the Airline say TSA. There have been TSA agents videoed taking things from luggage and there have been undercover investigations by reporters, but they are very downplayed by the Main Stream Media and the government
          Until the security theater is ended I refuse to use the airlines. All they are doing is putting us at greater risk.

          • libertytrain

            Yes, and they sometime leave a “note” telling you they rifled through your undies.

    • JC

      They don’t need to scan anything but your Credit Card (if you are using one). And I refuse to volunteer any information at all about myself other then proving I am the person who’s name is on the card.
      And better yet…I try and use cash for everything I can.

  • Kat

    Wow! This is one of the stupidest court decisions yet. What a waste of taxpayer money! First and foremost the buyer has the right to refuse to provide a zip code. No store will ever deny the right of the customer to purchase items simply because the customer refuses to provide a zip. If the court wants to protect privacy, maybe it should be enforcing existing law which says stores and service providers can’t use our Social Security numbers for ID. I would applaud that decision. Try getting a cell phone, a TV or Internet dish service, or even electric or gas service without the company demanding a Social Security number. Companies will deny customers the right to service for not providing the number, even though they are illegally requesting it. My zip I will hand out anytime, anyplace. My Social, now that’s another story.

    • Rusticus

      If you try and buy gas by scanning your card at the pump, many of them won’t allow you to purchase unless you enter your zip code.

      • JC

        So go inside and use cash. If you need a reciept ask for one.

  • jopa

    When I make purchases at our local K-Mart they always want my zip and pin on debit card purchase.That is too much info given they have my name that you can google and get my age gender birthdate,and residence.Once we all have our chips imbedded then we won’t have to waste time typing all this info in and they can just scan our eyeballs.

  • jopa

    Christin;Locks on suitcases became obsolete after 911.One of the number one rules of flying is never keep any valuables, money,prescription drugs or personal items you don’t want to lose in suitcases.That is the idea of the carry on.Thousands of bags are lost every year mainly from tags coming off.Every major airline has a store for selling lost and unclaimed baggage that have some great deals for the public.The TSA agent stealing forty bucks is minor.

  • Mac

    I haven’t run into this except at gas pumps, and only when I am out of state on trips. For any face-to-face sale I agree that it is probably a marketing scam.

    I agree with using ZIP codes as identity confirmation for anonymous point-of-sale purchases – ATMs and unattended gas pumps.

    • JC

      True…but I won’t patronize those.

    • JimC


      Self service gas pumps are the only place I have seen the “enter your zip code” in my state (DE).

      Somewhat more bizarre is the practice at Lowes home centers. If you use a self check out or a cashier and pay with a credit card….either the machine or the cashier will ask for the last 4 digits of the card. I don’t understand that one at all — if I am using a stolen card, I can simply read the last 4 digits.

  • Jim W.

    How STUPID are these people. This is a basic security question that comes up WHENEVER I use my card to pay for most things such as gas. This is a very low level security question to PROTECT THE STUPID LAZY CONSUMER AND COMPANIES FROM THEFT AND FRAUD. I don’t say ignorant because that can be fixed with information, but you can’t fix STUPID.

  • http://com i41

    Kalifornia court does not to see how many Mexican zip codes are used. Might findto many drug king pins and mules , sorry I mean drug shippers. Mules are crossbred democrats, jackasses bred to long faced socialist.

  • Jen

    I have a boat repair company, and we often accept payment for services over the phone, such as down payments, progress payments, or even final payments if the customer wants to pick the boat up after hours. Those payments are entered manually into our credit card machine. The credit card company charges us a higher rate if we do not input the address, zip code and 3 digit code off the back of the card, because the card is not present and the risk is higher to the bank for fraud (so they say). If a customer makes a payment in person, this information is not required because the card is swiped and the presumption made that we, the retailer, have verified ID. I think it would be a better law, if in tandem, it were to require banks to charge the same rate without the additional input. Speaking for myself, a 1-2% difference in the rate I am being charged is huge, as many of our invoices can be tens of thousands of dollars. What this will do is raise the prices to consumers in the long run if our lawmakers don’t address ALL of the reasons merchants have to ask for the data. Just my opinion.

    • JimC


      On the topic of ID with a credit card purchase.

      The very first credit card I ever had in my name was a Master Charge (not a typo, just old)issued by a local bank — it had my photograph laminated into the card. I always thought that was a good idea.

      I have a financial adviser friend who never signs her credit cards, in the signature space provided she neatly prints “Ask for photo ID”.

      • Jen

        Me too! And it infuriates me when they don’t ask! :)

  • jopa

    I just found out recently that the credit card company charges high rates for each transaction and that is why store owners have minimum amount purchases of like $10 in some instances.

    • Jen

      Hi Jopa

      That is the case with debit transactions with the company I use to process my credit cards. For the most part we prefer the debit card, as it is charged at a flat rate per transaction. However, I also have a fuel dock and convenience store where we sell soda, bait, snacks ect. If we charge just a soda pop as a debit for instance, it actually costs me money to make the sale! That’s why if you make a small purchase, most retailers will ask if it is OK to run it as a credit, not a debit. Same to your account(comes out of checking, for instance), just not so expensive to the retailer. But if I get a huge ticket, hundreds or even thousands, we always ask if they have a debit card first! But if the info is phoned in, then we can only run it as a credit and therefore we have to get the extra data i.e. zip, address and so on to get the lowest rate possible. We don’t use the info for marketing, nor do we share the info. But sadly that is not always the case for all companies. Makes the small guys like us look bad.

  • da norseman

    Thank God I left Mexifornia!!!


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