Earlier this month, a California trial court held that the Song-Beverly Act does not apply to online purchases of physically delivered goods. The Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles-Central District ruled in favor of Ticketmaster on January 10 in a lawsuit alleging violations of the Song-Beverly Act because customers were required to provide phone numbers and addresses in order to complete credit card purchases online.
The Song-Beverly Act generally prohibits retailers from requesting or requiring personal identification information (“PII”) as a condition of accepting credit card payment. In 2011, the California Supreme Court held that zip codes are PII, prompting a wave of class-action lawsuits to be filed against retailers under Song-Beverly and similar laws in other states. But in February, the California Supreme Court held that the Song-Beverly Act does not apply to online purchases of electronically-downloaded goods. That case, Apple v. Superior Court, did not address the issue of whether Song-Beverly applies to online purchases of goods physically delivered to a consumer.
After Apple, courts that have considered the issue—including in Ticketmaster—generally have applied Apple’s logic to conclude that the Song-Beverly Act is inapplicable to online purchases of physical goods. These courts have relied on Apple’s statement that, in enacting the Song-Beverly Act, the legislature was concerned not only with safeguarding consumer privacy but also with ensuring there is “some mechanism” for retailers to verify that a person using a credit card is authorized to do so. Because online retailers cannot visually inspect a credit card or a purchaser’s photo identification, the Apple court found the statute inapplicable to online transactions for downloadable goods.
In Ticketmaster, the Court held that Apple’s logic applied equally to online purchases of physically-delivered goods. In both cases, the Court noted that the transaction “does not fit within the statutory scheme” of Song-Beverley because online retailers have no mechanism for ensuring that the transaction is valid. That mirrors the July decision by a San Francisco trial court in Krecsent v. StubHub, which held that the fact that goods were delivered rather than downloaded “does not distinguish Apple in any relevant sense.” A federal district judge reached the same conclusion in April in a lawsuit against Buy.com, dismissing a suit claiming that the online retailer’s collection of phone numbers was improper. That decision, Ambers v. Buy.com, is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit.