Under the Act, Cal. Civ. Code §1798.83, California residents have the right to request from a business with twenty or more employees, with whom they have an established business relationship, certain information about the business’s disclosure of personal information to third parties for direct marketing purposes. Specifically, such California residents may ask for details about what personal information the business shares with third parties for those third parties’ direct marketing purposes during the immediately preceding calendar year.
To date, despite being effective since 2005, there are no published decisions under the Act. But that may change with this month’s wave of class action lawsuits. The complaints in the recently filed class action lawsuits share the same allegation (in addition to sharing the same plaintiff’s lawyer): that each respective business failed to comply with its obligations by not providing its California customers with the information necessary for them to make requests under the Act.
According to Cal. Civ. Code §1798.84(c), violating the Act can result in a civil penalty of up to $500 per violation, unless the violation is willful, intentional or reckless, in which case the business can be on the hook for as much as $3,000 per violation. However, businesses are given a ninety day cure period before they can be held in violation of the law, as long as their violation was not willful, intentional or reckless. Many companies who have been challenged may be able to avail themselves of this safe harbor to avoid costly settlements and class notification expenses.
Although these cases are still in their early stages and it is not clear how things will be resolved, it is important to note that while complying with the Shine the Light privacy law may be burdensome, noncompliance may result in a business’s lights being dimmed, or, given the possibility of statutory damages, turned off for good.