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FACTA Class Actions Grow

Since the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act took full effect in 2006, businesses have seen a rapid growth in class-action lawsuits over credit card numbers printed on receipts. FACTA, which was intended to help prevent identity theft, requires businesses that accept credit cards to hide all but the last five digits of the card number on receipts, and not to print the expiration date at all.

Businesses that failed to meet those requirements in time were hit with hundreds of class actions within the first year of the law’s effective date in December of 2006. Restaurants, at which consumers regularly and normally leave credit card receipts, have been an especially frequent defendant. The actions allege that businesses in violation of FACTA are willfully disregarding the law because they had several years to comply, and ask for up to $1,000 for each violation. Federal appeals courts split on the matter of whether a business’s unintentional failure to comply with FACTA was “willful,” but the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2007’s Geico v. Edo, 551 U.S. __ (2007), an appeal from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, that a willful violation may be “reckless disregard” for the law as well as a knowing or intentional violation.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York introduced legislation on May 6, 2008 that would end liability for businesses that print expiration dates but comply with the requirement to shorten credit card numbers. The proposed Credit and Debit Card Receipt Clarification Act of 2008 would declare any business that printed the expiration date but not the entire number to be “not in willful noncompliance” with FACTA. It would apply to any unresolved lawsuit, regardless of when that lawsuit was filed.