Retailer’s Request for Zip Code Violated Law, But Generated No Harm

A decision in Tyler v. Michaels Stores earlier this month from the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the use of a consumer’s Zip Code to find her address and send her mailings was held to be a statutory violation, but did not give rise to a claim for damages.

Melissa Tyler brought suit against Michaels Stores for violation of Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 93, section 105(a) on behalf of herself and a putative class, claiming that Michaels illegally requested customers’ ZIP codes when processing their credit card transactions in violation
of the section 105(a).  She alleged that the violation of section 105(a) amounted to a per se violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection law, chapter 93A, section 9, caused unjust enrichment, and entitled Tyler to declaratory relief pursuant.

Judge Young found that "a ZIP code can indeed be personal identification information under
Section 105(a)" but that no harm resulted (that Ms. Tyler’s receipt of advertisements for the store was not sufficient to constitute harm):

In the area of identity fraud, a judge in this district has similarly held that where there were no instances of actual data loss or misappropriation, the failure to comply with minimum
statutory security standards did not cause cognizable injury because the added risk of identity fraud did not actually cause harm to the plaintiff. Katz v. Pershing, LLC, Civil Action No.
10–12227-RGS, 2011 WL 3678720, at *4 (D. Mass. Aug. 23, 2011) (Stearns, J)….[R]eceiving unwanted commercial advertising through the mail is simply not an injury cognizable under chapter 93A, since Section 105(a) was enacted to prevent fraud.

Section 105(a) provides in relevant part:

No person, firm, partnership, corporation or other business entity that accepts a credit card for a business transaction shall write, cause to be written or require that a credit card holder write personal identification information, not required by the credit card issuer, on the credit card transaction form. Personal identification information shall include, but shall not be limited to,
a credit card holder’s address or telephone number. The provisions of this section shall apply to all credit card transactions; provided, however, that the provisions of this section shall not be construed to prevent a person, firm, partnership, corporation or other business entity
from requesting information that is necessary for shipping, delivery or installation of purchased
merchandise or services or for a warranty when such information is provided voluntarily by a credit card holder.

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93, § 105(a).

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