Final Settlement Announced Against Dillard’s for Privacy Abuses

Published Wednesday, Aug 30, 2006
STOCKTON – Final settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Dillard’s
department store means up to 250,000 California customers may be
eligible for a $20 gift card from the retailer.
Approval of the settlement came Tuesday during a brief hearing before
San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Lauren Thomasson, said James
Lindsay, the Sacramento attorney who brought the suit on behalf of
Stockton resident April Castaneda and others.

"The court approved the settlement based upon its fairness and the fact
that there were very few class members that excluded themselves from
the settlement and none that objected to the settlement," he said.

Affected consumers would have shopped at the department store
between July 4, 2004, and July 8, 2005, and would have been asked to
provide their home telephone number when using a non-Dillard’s credit

California law bars retailers from requiring such information.
Dillard’s will apparently handle claims for gift certificates
itself. However, a reporter’s calls to the retailer’s corporate offices
in Little Rock, Ark. – seeking comment about the lawsuit and
information about the claims process – were not returned Tuesday

A consumer right’s advocate applauded the settlement.

"Privacy is very important to people," said Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California. "People don’t want others to know more than what is required to transact business."

State laws are intended to protect consumers against unwarranted
intrusions, especially in an age when identity theft is of increasing
"The question I would ask is, ‘Why does the business want that
information?’ " Holober said rhetorically. "Only because they want it
for some purpose that would be intrusive on the customers."
Lindsay said Dillard’s customers who shopped at stores in
Palmdale and El Centro, as well as in Stockton, are covered by the
class-action suit.

Nearly 120,000 people, including all those who previously
received notices about the pending settlement, will be directly mailed
a claim form, Lindsay said.
Legal notices should be published shortly in newspapers in the
affected communities, including The Record, providing information about
how others covered by the class-action settlement also may file claims.

"That’s going to occur pretty quickly," Lindsay said.
As the lead plaintiff, Castaneda will receive a $5,000
settlement payment, and her attorney’s firm, Lindsay & Stonebarger,
will collect $200,000 in legal fees and costs.

That’s not a lot of money compared with the potential $5 million payout from the settlement, Lindsay noted.

"We try to do these things in a way that primarily benefits the consumers we believe have been harmed," he said.
The Dillard’s case arose July 5, 2005, when Stockton resident
Castaneda swiped her credit card through the store’s card reader and
was prompted to punch in her telephone number.
Lindsay said the retailer collected such telephone numbers to
determine customer’s home addresses for follow-up marketing and other
potential purposes.