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Boston plaintiffs sue Apple over zip code collection

updated 10:09 pm EST, Fri January 17, 2014

Claim to have received marketing materials by providing info

A trio of Boston area plaintiffs have filed suit against Apple in Massachusetts, claiming that they were forced to provide their home ZIP codes when making purchases at an Apple Store in Boston using credit cards. The men claim that under commonwealth law, it is illegal to compel customers to provider more personal information than is required by credit card issuers to verify the transaction -- apparently unaware that credit card companies use ZIP codes to verify transactions.

The practice of using ZIP codes to ensure that the person using the credit card is aware of the full address of the card owner is common throughout the United States in both stores and online merchant sites. A test attempting to buy items at Amazon, Apple's online store and other sites saw all the stores requiring ZIP codes that matched the code for the address on file in order for the transaction to be approved, suggesting that this was a standard practice by credit card issuers.

The complain further alleges that not only does Apple collect the information (rather than complying with directives from credit card companies), but that it sells this information to other companies for profit, reports AppleInsider. The plaintiffs claim hard in the form of "having received unwanted marketing materials from Apple as a result of having provided their ZIP codes when using credit cards at Apple," though they do not specify what form the materials took -- Apple commonly sends customers emails following a purchase, but isn't known to mail marketing materials to buyers (and thus require a ZIP code).

In the original version of the proposed suit, discussed with Apple prior to the filing, the group was seeking damages of $25 per instance in Massachusetts, attorney's fees and "a reasonable incentive reward [...] for services as the proposed class representatives. It did not include any claim that Apple sold the collected information to third parties.

Apparently rebuffed by Apple's legal department, the trio have now filed the suit asking for damages of up $75 per violation, interest on the damages, litigation expenses and attorney's fees and "further relief," along with an injunction to force Apple to stop collecting ZIP code information in the commonwealth. Apple has not yet responded to the suit, which is seeking class-action status.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. msuper69

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 01-16-00

    No way in h*ll is this gonna fly.
    They should be suing the credit card companies as they are the ones that are requesting the zip code, not Apple. Why aren't they suing their local grocery stores (and all the other places a credit card is used).

  1. Zanziboy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-27-08

    Ludicrous! Why can't I sue these these three idiot plaintiffs for wasting my money as a taxpayer, and my return as an investor.

  1. blshaw

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-09-10

    I bet these clowns are lawyers themselves, but certainly not very astute ones. Or perhaps they are high school dropouts with nothing better to do. Not only do many retailers ask for the zip code associated with a credit card (does this mean I can sue my gas station?), but the procedure is intended to prevent anyone from using stolen credit cards, i.e. it's done so that the rightful owner of a card is protected from fraud. If one of these idiots had their card stolen and it was used at an Apple store but this additional check was NOT performed, he'd probably sue Apple for allowing the transaction. Ridiculous.

  1. yticolev

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 05-22-02

    I've never been asked for my zip code before when presenting a credit card physically at a store. Credit card processors only require a zip to verify a phone or online order. I've also used Square to process credit cards and they do not require a zip code either if I can swipe it.

    I've not been asked for a zip at an Apple Store either, but my Apple ID is associated with an address.

    All that said, it is difficult to see how the plaintiffs have been damaged in any way. I do find it annoying when retailers collect personal information, but generally you can decline. Radio Shack for example has been collecting addresses for decades at the register.

  1. Inkling

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 07-25-06

    Those suing may be confusing with Apple is doing with what some retailers are doing with cash cards which, because they require a PIN, don't need other data to verify them. Apparently, buying with a cash card does not give retailers any information other than a name. Asking for a Zip code lets them match that name with an address from other databases and put people on mailing lists. I'm not sure that's illegal, but it can be irritating.

  1. sribe

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-14-03

    UHM, how in the hell did Apple send them unsolicited materials with only their names and zip codes? If that is really what this lawsuit claims, the lawyers who filed it should be sanctioned and have to pay Apple's expenses--even if it bankrupts them.

  1. sunman42

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-09-11

    Evidently, the plaintiffs never buy gas with a credit card.

  1. kerryb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-05-01

    I never give any store my zip code unless of course the product is being shipped to me. It is true many store do not need a zip code but ask for use anyway. There are companies (stores) that ask for a zip code but I refuse to give it, when they insist I give them one that is not mine. These stores are using this information to profile their customer base. These guys may have picked the wrong business to sue but in years to come large companies will demand more information from their customers for the purpose they claim. If you look at those discount "rewards" card that every chain store offers you do realize that you give away your privacy to save pennies each time you buy cough medicine don't you?

  1. JackWebb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-31-07

    I'd like to know the truth of why they and other stores collect the zip codes. I think the gas pumps are doing it for CC verification. But for others I assumed it was to find out where people are coming from to give them an idea of where they might need to build new stores. I'd sure like an Apple Store closer to me. Certainly Apple isn't the only one doing this and there's no way of compelling truthful information if it's not for CC verification.

  1. giantmike

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 05-08-99

    People, do the tiniest amount of research before posting your article. There is precedence for these guys to win http://consumerist.com/2013/03/12/massachusetts-court-retailers-cant-ask-for-zip-codes-to-verify-credit-card-purchases/

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-01-09

    @giantmike:

    You mean "there is a precedent", or "there are precedents".

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    I have to verify my code before I buy gas or place any online orders. It could possibly be that Apple was collecting ZIP codes and shouldn't have been in Massachusetts, but maybe they only do it when they suspect the credit card being used might be stolen -- say for example if the buyers seem to be shifty weasels ... which I'm totally not saying these plaintiffs were, but I have to wonder why they simply didn't report this to the state AG and let them sort it out ... hmmm ...

  1. Jittery Jimmy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-09-06

    Eh?

    Maybe it is illegal but zip is collected all the time at the pump. Regardless it's the cc companies that sell all your personal data. It's hard to claim that apple is to blame when it is the buyers card and not apples.

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    America should change the laws so that the loser of any of these cases has to pay all legal fees (e.g. for themselves and for the other party).

  1. pottymouth

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 11-19-03

    Yep. Even in Boston (and elsewhere in MA) I often have to enter my zip code to verify. Never heard of this before.

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