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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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