California Supreme Court Prohibits the Collection of ZIP Codes


Jessica Pineda brought a class action against Williams-Sonoma for violations of the Credit Card Act “and Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq. Her lawsuit was based on a 2008 visit to a Williams-Sonoma Store in California. While making her purchase, the cashier asked for her zip code, but did not tell her what the information would be used for. Thinking the information was necessary to complete the transaction, Pineda provided the information. Later, using specialized computer software, Williams-Sonoma conducted a “reverse lookup” and was able to determine Pineda’s previously unknown mailing address by matching her name and zip code in a third-party database. This information was then stored in Williams-Sonoma’s own database for use in direct-mail marketing campaigns. Aware of the court’s prior holding in Party City, Pineda pursued her class action on the grounds that an essential element was missing from the prior cases. Namely, allegations that Williams=Sonoma actually use of the acquired ZIP code. Rather than rule that harm was a required element, the court instead overruled Party City altogether.

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