A class action lawsuit has been filed by the Leonard Law Office and co-counsel against Patagonia. The case alleges that Patagonia violated a Massachusetts credit card privacy law.
Excerpts from the complaint:
Plaintiff brings this action for redress of the unlawful practice of Patagonia of collecting ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts store from customers who make purchases with Credit Cards , recording that information as part of the Credit Card transaction, and then using that information for its own marketing and promotional purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.” This practice, which has affected Plaintiff and members of the Class, as described and defined herein, is an invasion of privacy and violates G. L. c. 93 § 105(a) and G. L. c. 93A, § 2.
A recent article from CNNMoney discussed the significant privacy violations that result from the practice of collecting ZIP codes. According to CNNMoney:
[T]he five-digit zip code is one of the key items data brokers use to link a wealth of public records to what you buy. They can figure out whether you’re getting married (or divorced), selling your home, smoke cigarettes, sending a kid off to college or about to have one. Such information is the cornerstone of a multi-billion dollar industry that enables retailers to target consumers with advertising and coupons. Yet, data privacy experts are concerned about the level at which consumers are being tracked without their knowledge — and what would happen if that data got into the wrong hands. Acxiom, one of the biggest data brokers in the business, claims to have a database that holds information — including one’s age, marital status, education level, political leanings, hobbies and income level — on 190 million individuals. Major competitors, like Datalogix and CoreLogic, tout similarly vast databases. In most cases, all that is needed to match the information these data brokers compile with what you buy is your full name — obtained when you swipe a credit card — and a zip code, according to data privacy experts. This allows them to figure out that you are the Sally Smith who lives in Butte, Mont., not the one who lives in Denver, for example. “For the majority of the country, the zip code is going to be the piece of the puzzle that is going to enable a merchant to identify you,” said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Source “What Your ZIP Code Reveals About You,” April 18, 2013 (available at http://money.cnn.com/2013/04/18/pf/data-privacy/).
Information about Patagonia
Patagonia is a California company founded by Yvon Chouinard. It is best known for its high quality outdoor clothing, and esteemable corporate ethics.