Keep Your Hands Off My Zip Code!
The California Supreme Court last week ruled that California’s
retailers can no longer ask for the ZIP codes of customers who make purchases
with credit cards. ZIP Codes were determined to be "personal identification
such requests violated state consumer privacy laws.
In the lawsuit filed against
Williams-Sonoma, Jessica Pineda of Menlo Park, CA, contended the store used
her name and ZIP Code to identify her address and then stored the information
in a database for later marketing. She also contended that the retailer had
the ability to sell her information to other businesses.
that ZIP Codes did not provide personal information because they pertained
to a group, not an individual. Besides, for some marketing purposes, it also
claims that asking for ZIP Codes is partly a security precaution.
courts had rejected the suit, but the Supreme Court said a ZIP Code was part
of a person’s address and therefore covered by the state’s 1971 Credit Card
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Gene Stonebarger, an attorney
for Ms. Pineda, said the decision would help protect consumers from credit
card fraud and identity theft. The ruling will affect more than a dozen lawsuits
in the state against major retailers that seek and store consumer ZIP Codes.
Portnoy, a retail and marketing expert, told the LA Times that
there has been "a gathering storm, a backlash" by consumers
against requests for personal information but he believes retailers will continue
to seek such information.
"Companies will still find ways," he said. "The goal in any
business is to know your customers as well as you can."
- California retailers can’t ask patrons for ZIP Codes, court rules – The
Los Angeles Times
- Calif. court: Merchants can’t ask patrons for ZIPs – The Associated
Discussion Questions: How important are attaining Zip Codes for retailers’ marketing and consumer research purposes? Do you detect to see a further backlash from consumers against stores or companies in gathering personal information?