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Forever 21 Email Suit Dismissed in Clownifornia, For Now

10/21/14
 
By Ken Magill
 
A class-action lawsuit against fashion retailer Forever 21 over its point-of-sale email-address-collection practices has been dismissed without prejudice, meaning the same suit can be filed again.
 
Last month, Forever 21 shopper Tamar Estanboulian filed a class-action lawsuit against the retailer alleging it has a policy of requiring cashiers to collect email addresses during credit card transactions in violation of Song-Beverly.
 
Estanboulian reportedly bought some merchandise from a Forever 21 store in Los Angeles using a credit card in July.
 
According to the complaint, the cashier asked Estanboulian for her email address, which Estanboulian provided believing it was necessary to complete the transaction.
 
Shortly thereafter, Estanboulian received a (gasp!) promotional email from Forever 21. Imagine the abject horror of providing an email address to a retailer and getting email from the retailer. Only one who has had the experience can fathom the pain.
 
So what was Estanboulian to do to prevent Forever 21 from inflicting more human suffering? Why, she sued of course. If just one child could be protected from Forever 21’s email, the effort would be worth it.
 
After all, aren’t petty annoyances exactly what the court system is for? It’s not like there are greater problems judges should be spending their time on, right? 
 
Then again, these are California judges. If they’re spending their time making idiotic decisions concerning commercial email, at least they’re not banning electricity as an unacceptable environmental threat to Lusitanian garden slugs.
 
On Oct. 14, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson dismissed Estanboulian’s case against Forever 21. However, the dismissal was ordered at the request of the plaintiff and done without prejudice.
 
An earlier order required Estanboulian to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Call me paranoid, but I’m presuming she couldn’t show cause and requested it to be dismissed without prejudice so she could file it again elsewhere.
 
The case is another example in the long history of class-action stupidity unleashed by California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act.
 
Under the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971 retailers cannot request personally identifiable information as a condition for accepting a credit card.
 
Song-Beverly was originally passed to protect consumers from dumpster-diving thieves looking for carbon copies of credit-card slips that often contained credit card numbers. It was written to protect consumers from fraud in paper-based transactions.
 
But in the ensuing years, California’s privacy whackos and its Bizzaro World judges have twisted Song-Beverly’s original intent beyond a reasonable consumer-protection effort into a class-action sledge hammer against retailers.
 
In 2011, the barnyard idiots on California’s Supreme Court ruled that ZIP codes are personally identifiable information and, therefore, illegal to collect under Song-Beverly.
 
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit against San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma.
 
In 2008, Jessica Pineda visited a Williams-Sonoma store in California. While making her purchase, the cashier reportedly asked for her ZIP code but did not tell her what the information would be used for.
 
Supposedly thinking the information was necessary to complete the transaction, Pineda provided it. Later, Williams-Sonoma conducted a ‘reverse lookup’ and was able to get Pineda’s mailing address by matching her name and ZIP code in a third-party database.
 
Williams-Sonoma then reportedly sent Pineda some direct mail.
 
Indignant over the unwanted mail, Pineda filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that the store violated Song-Beverly.
 
In an act of jaw-dropping idiocy, California’s State Supreme Court ruled against Williams-Sonoma and ruled ZIP codes are personally identifiable information. 
 
What is it about judges in California? The moment they put on the black robes it seems they feel compelled to come piling out of small cars into mounds of elephant crap.
 
After a kazoo break, the court made the Williams-Sonoma ruling retroactive.
 
The ruling put companies who had thought they were acting within the law before the Williams-Sonoma debacle in class-action parasites’ crosshairs.
 
Predictably, dozens of societal leeches launched suits of their own.
 
And, of course, given that California tends to be a bottomless pit of anti-marketing judicial ass-clownedness, a United States federal district court in California last year ruled in a case against Nordstrom that email addresses are personally identifiable information under Song-Beverly, as well.
 
The court based its ruling on the Williams-Sonoma case. 
 
Cue the kazoos:
 
“In this case, an email address is within the scope of the statute’s broad terms concerning the cardholder as well because a cardholder’s email address pertains to or regards to a cardholder in a more specific and personal way than does a ZIP code,” said the court in its ruling. “Instead of referring to the general area in which a cardholder lives or works, a cardholder’s email address permits direct contact and implicates the privacy interests of a cardholder.”
 
The logic is unassailable. If 10917 is personally identifiable information, so is ShuvittInyurass@yahoo.com.
 
In any case, lay a foundation of ass-clownedness and more ass-clownedness will certainly ensue.
 
Given California’s history of Song-Beverly idiocy, it would not be surprising if one of its courts rules soon that cashiers making eye contact with customers is a violation because they may recognize the customer later.
 
[Note to readers in California: I love you guys. It’s your judges I can’t stand.]
 
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