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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Apple Fights California Law It Says Is Outdated

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - California's highest court tried Wednesday to reconcile a decades-old consumer-protection law against the collection of Apple customers' personal information.

David Krescent, of Southern California, claims that Apple violated the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act by demanding his address and phone number for an iTunes account.

Apple attorney Daniel Kolkey said the 1991 California law does not apply to the murky domain of online retail in which a customer's billing address and phone number is the only way to verify identity and protect against fraud.

"Online transactions didn't exist when this statute was enacted," Kolkey said. "The problem with this scheme is it wasn't written for the problems of the online world."

But Krescent's attorney, Eric Schreiber, said the case revolves on the statute's privacy-protection provisions, what he referred to as its "primary goal."

He argued that the statute should apply to all merchants, not just the brick-and-mortar stores that the act envisioned.

"Should we decide this case based upon the concern about fraud?" Justice Joyce Kennard asked.

Schreiber answered: "I think it should be decided on the language of the statute and the primary goal of the statute: to protect the privacy of the consumer."

While Internet transactions did not exist when the law was last revised in 1991, phone and facsimile purchases were common, he added. Without a customer's personal information, merchants faced the same verification problem with these forms of communication, Schreiber said.

Still, the justices struggled with a provision of the law allowing retailers to ask for "reasonable forms of positive identification."

Schreiber admitted: "It's a difficult question."

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye chimed in: "It's a difficult question because it doesn't fit."

"So it's like Mr. Kolkey was saying, the statute had a different world in mind," Cantil-Sakauye said.

She later added that it was hard to conceive of a Legislature in 1991 that would have considered the availability of downloadable purchases, such as iTunes products.

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