First zip codes, now e-mail addresses?

According to a new complaint filed in California federal court against Express Fashion Apparel, LLC, the retailer’s collection of a customer’s phone number and e-mail address during a credit card transaction violates the state’s Song-Beverly Act.

Andrew Staveley alleges that he visited an Express store in San Luis Obispo, California. When he made his purchase using his credit card, the cashier requested his telephone number and e-mail address. Believing that he was required to provide the information, Staveley shared it with the cashier. Shortly thereafter, he received an e-mail advertisement from Express.

Pursuant to California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act, companies may not request and record “personal identification information,” which is defined as “information concerning the cardholder, other than information set forth on the credit card, and including, but not limited to, the cardholder’s address and telephone number.”

In February 2011, the California Supreme Court held that the act’s definition of personal information included a customer’s zip code, setting off a wave of litigation in the state and beyond.

Express has a “uniform policy” of requesting e-mail addresses and phone numbers, Staveley claimed in his suit, which seeks to certify a class of customers who made credit card purchases at Express stores in California over the last year.

Characterizing the defendant’s conduct as intentional and “of potentially great benefit” to Express, Staveley said each class member is entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages.

To read the complaint in Staveley v. Express Fashion Apparel, click here.

Why it matters:“If successful, this action will enforce an important right affecting the public interest and will confer significant benefits, both pecuniary and non-pecuniary, on a large class of persons,” Staveley’s complaint stated. At the very least, the suit is likely to generate copycat actions.