Justinian C. Lane, Esq.
Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall

Justinian Lane's Blog

Justinian's Blog

Another business bailout

Back in 2003 when Congress passed the (un)Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, it included civil penalties of $100 to  $1,000 for each violation.  A very common violation has been when businesses leave credit card information on receipts, which can lead to identity theft.  Not surprisingly, many businesses failed to comply with the law, and also not surprisingly, quite a bit of litigation ensued:

Arthur Cullen, owner of the Coral Gables, Fla., restaurant Havana Harry's, felt his livelihood threatened when he was served with a lawsuit in April. A customer accused him of illegally including credit or debit card expiration dates on customer receipts.


Cullen's business was open to litigation under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, which prohibits printing expiration dates and all but the five last digits of charge card numbers.


U.S. Sen. Charles Shumer, D-New York, who sponsored the Senate bill, said, "Congress never intended for the law to be used to drive companies out of business with expensive legal cases that don't involve any harm to consumers."

The amendment "stops destructive lawsuits against companies that made a harmless error in the past," he said.

Law.com - Attorneys Slam 'Bailout Plan' for Businesses

If it's a "harmless error," then why is it illegal to begin with? 

Honestly, I'm on the business owners' side on this one - you shouldn't sue someone if they only print your card expiration date on a receipt.  That's not enough for identity theft.  What bugs me here is that once again Congress is coming to the aid of businesses who don't like to play by the rules. 

I'm a consummate speeder.  I don't even know how many speeding tickets I've had over the years.  I'm not even sure I know all the states I've had them in.  But, I've never been at fault in a car accident, and I've never been involved in a car accident while speeding.  Truly, my speeding has been a victimless crime.  So why isn't Congress passing a bill to protect speeders?  Probably because speeding tickets act as both a deterrent and a punishment for breaking the law. 

I've just gotten very tired of the absolute deification of business in this country.  It seems like no matter how reprehensible the activity, it's permissible if the actor is a business.  There's an old saying that ignorance of the law is no excuse.  That only holds true for individuals acting in their individual capacity.