On February 21, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of an action brought under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (“FACTA”), finding that the plaintiff had not demonstrated Article III standing. Plaintiff Steven Bassett alleged that ABM Parking Services and its affiliated businesses repeatedly printed the expiration date of his credit card on sales receipts. Bassett argued that the failure to withhold this information from the credit card receipt could lead to identity theft, but the Western District of Washington dismissed his case for failure to plead injury.
In an opinion that included a step-by-step analysis of the Supreme Court’s reasoning in the landmark Spokeo decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that Bassett had not alleged a concrete injury-in-fact to confer standing. “We need not answer whether a tree falling in the forest makes a sound when no one is there to hear it,” wrote Judge M. Margaret McKeown for the panel. “But when this receipt fell into Bassett’s hands in a parking garage and no identity thief was there to snatch it, it did not make an injury.” Bassett’s credit card information was not disclosed to anyone but Bassett himself, the panel concluded, and his complaint failed to allege a risk of harm, “given that he could shred the offending receipt along with any remaining risk of disclosure.”
The court contrasted Bassett’s claims to those recently before the court in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) case. In Van Patten v. Vertical Fitness Group, LLC, the Ninth Circuit held that a consumer who received unsolicited text messages in violation of the TCPA alleged an injury because “unrestricted telemarketing can be an intrusive invasion of privacy and is a nuisance.” While a credit card receipt that has not been divulged to anyone but the credit card’s holder may not cause harm or present the material risk of harm, “unconsented text messages and consumer reports divulged to one’s employer necessarily infringe privacy interests and present harm.”
The decision unites the Ninth Circuit with the Second and Seventh circuits, which both affirmed dismissals of similar FACTA cases in Crupar-Weinmann v. Paris Baguette America, Inc. and Meyers v. Nicolet Restaurant of De Pere, LLC, which we covered here.