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California Supreme Court Bars Retailers From Requesting ZIP Codes

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Aired 2/11/11

The State's top court today overturned a decision that let stores ask their customers for ZIP Codes.

— The California Supreme Court is forbidding stores from asking customers for ZIP Codes. The decision overturns two lower-court rulings that favored stores. The ruling says asking for and storing a customer's ZIP Code violates California's consumer-protection law.

The case stems from a dispute involving a customer of Williams Sonoma. A class action lawsuit argued the store asked for a customer's ZIP Code, stored the information and used it to identify that person. The primary defendant argued the company also had the ability to sell that information.

"Its a terrible decision," said Bruce Dombrowski the President of the California Association of Retailers. "The court basically said that any component of an address -- whether it's a ZIP Code, name of street -- is personal information."

The ruling says the legislature intended to protect consumers from companies that collect more information than they need to process credit-card transactions.

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