On April 1, 2016, a class action lawsuit was commenced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that Consumers Union of United States, Inc., a branch of the popular magazine publisher of Consumer Reports (“Consumer Union”), sold personally identifiable information of Consumer Reports magazine subscribers to third-parties in violation of Michigan’s Preservation of Personal Privacy Act (“PPPA”). The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, as well as damages in the form of disgorgement of profits or $5,000.00 per class member, whichever is greater.

How is Consumers Union Alleged to Have Violated the PPPA?

Consumers Union Sued for Selling Personally Identifiable Information

According to the complaint, the class representative plaintiff was a Consumer Reports subscriber. The plaintiff alleges that Consumers Union sold information to various third-parties concerning the plaintiff’s personal reading habits and interests. The complaint alleges that “[b]ecause Consumers Union sold and disclosed [plaintiff’s] Personal Reading Information, Plaintiff [] now receives junk mail and telephone solicitations offering discounted magazine subscriptions, among other things.”

The complaint seeks to certify a class of “all Michigan residents who had their Personal Reading Information disclosed to third parties by Consumers Union without consent.” Consumers Union has not yet been served with process.

Protect Yourself

As we blogged last month, the Federal Communications Commission has recently proposed new rules regarding the collection and distribution of personally identifiable information. Due to the sensitive nature of personally identifiable information, businesses that engage in the collection and sale of such information should consult with competent legal counsel concerning applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations.