Urban Outfitters is facing a class action lawsuit for a common request asked at many retail cash registers: “What’s your ZIP code?” The trendy retailer, along with Anthropologie, allegedly misled customers into thinking that providing a ZIP code was necessary when paying with a credit card. It’s not, but the information gives companies access to customers’ addresses, which are then often sold or used for marketing campaigns.
Laws vary by state, but in Washington, D.C., where the lawsuit was filed, misleading customers into providing extra information is illegal. But Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie are not the first stores to face controversy for ZIP code requests. More than 50 such lawsuits have been filed in California alone, and one woman’s case against Williams Sonoma for the misleading prompt made its way up to the California Supreme Court in 2011, according to Forbes. The court ruled that stores can’t require customers to provide their ZIP codes, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled similarly in 2013 in a lawsuit against Michaels.
Some retailers argue that the information is used for market research that may help companies decide where to open new locations, according to Fashionista. But until customers understand exactly how their information is being used, lawsuits like this are likely to continue popping up.