Although courts have been inconsistent on whether a retailer collecting a Zip Code is violating the law, a new class-action complaint against Urban Outfitters focuses not on privacy but on intent. The filing said that the chain's error was in tricking shoppers into thinking that the ZIP Code information was required to make a purchase. That trickery would put Urban Outfitters—and its sister chain, Anthropologie—in violation of two consumer protection laws, at least in Washington, D.C., where the complaint was filed.
The lawsuit said that ZIP Code information is being used to "secretly obtain customers' home/business address" through commercially available databases, then sold or directly utilized for marketing, according to a report in BuzzFeed. (Not so sure how secret such efforts are anymore, but I digress.)
"It's a question of transparency," said Scott Perry, an attorney at Perry Charnoff in Arlington, Va., who filed the action.
Although it's not clear how much legal risk any ZIP Code-seeking chain is accepting, many chains have abandoned the practice because it's often not worth the effort.
Mobile and Web interactions already deliver much more extensive location data and using a payment card to connect online/mobile databases with in-store records (same payment card, probably the same person) is much more efficient and it doesn't bother the shopper at all. Home Depot has been extensively using just such a card-identification technique.
- See BuzzFeed story
Walmart Asked CA Shoppers For Zip Codes. Now It's Ordered To Send Them Apology Giftcards
California Opens Zip Code CRM Goldmine For All E-Tailers
Williams-Sonoma Skates On ZIP Code Privacy Lawsuit, Federal Judge Rules