Case: Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma Stores, Inc., Cal. Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division One, No. D054355 (Oct. 23, 2009)

The One Sentence Summary:
A retailer did not violate the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971 (Cal. Civ. Code § 1747 et. seq.), nor did it invade its customer’s privacy, when it asked a customer who used a credit card for her zip code, where the zip code was later used to conduct a reverse database search for her address.

What They Were Fighting About:
Plaintiff Jessica Pineda purchased an item with her credit card at a Williams-Sonoma Store in California. The cashier asked for her zip code without informing her what would happen if she declined. Thinking that the information was required, Pineda provided her zip code. The store used this information in a computer program to conduct reverse searches of databases and acquired her address, which it then maintained in its own database.

Pineda filed a putative class action alleging, among other things, a violation of the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971 (Cal. Civ. Code § 1747 et. seq.). This Act prohibits businesses that accept credit cards from requesting and recording “personal identification information” about the card holder, including the card holder’s address and telephone number. Pineda also claimed that her privacy was invaded when the store requested and recorded her zip code, used this information to obtain her address, and used her address for its own profit.

Court Holdings:
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order sustaining Williams-Sonoma’s demurrer and held:

  • Relying on Party City Corp. v. Superior Court, 169 Cal. App. 4th 497 (2008), the court held that the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act does not prohibit retailers from asking consumers for their zip codes. The Party City Court reasoned that an “address and telephone number” were specific to an individual, whereas a zip code was a group identifier not prohibited under the Act.
  • Using a legally-obtained zip code to acquire and use an address that is public is not “a serious invasion of privacy,” which is a necessary element of a privacy claim. Pineda failed to allege facts showing that her home address was not otherwise publicly available or that she undertook efforts to keep it private.

Court Holdings:
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order sustaining Williams-Sonoma’s demurrer and held:

  • Relying on Party City Corp. v. Superior Court, 169 Cal. App. 4th 497 (2008), the court held that the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act does not prohibit retailers from asking consumers for their zip codes. The Party City Court reasoned that an “address and telephone number” were specific to an individual, whereas a zip code was a group identifier not prohibited under the Act.
  • Using a legally-obtained zip code to acquire and use an address that is public is not “a serious invasion of privacy,” which is a necessary element of a privacy claim. Pineda failed to allege facts showing that her home address was not otherwise publicly available or that she undertook efforts to keep it private.