What is California's Consumer Protection Law?

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The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) became effective on January 1, 2020, and it grants Californians the strongest data privacy rights in the entire country. It marks an important development in California consumer law, and it gives Californians the legal right to take back control of their personal information. For instance, it gives them the right to know all the data that a business has collected on them twice a year at no charge.

California Consumer Law: Background

On June 28, 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was passed by the California State Legislature and signed into law by Jerry Brown, the governor of California. The bill was created to improve the privacy rights and consumer protection for all California residents. Amendments to the CCPA (in the form of Senate Bill 1121) were passed on September 13, 2018. Further amendments were signed into law on October 11, 2019. On January 1, 2020, the CCPA became effective.

California Consumer Privacy Act

The California Consumer Privacy Act gives you as a consumer the right to take control of your personal information, including:

  • The right to know all data collected by a business on you, twice a year, free of charge.
  • The right to say no to the sale of your information.
  • The right to sue companies who collected your data, where that data was stolen or disclosed pursuant to an unauthorized data breach, if the company was careless or negligent about how it protected your data (i.e., if the data was unencrypted, un-redacted, or the company didn’t have reasonable security policies and procedures in place to protect it). 
  • The right to delete data that is posted.
  • The right not to be discriminated against if you tell a company not to sell your personal information.
  • The right to be informed as to the categories of data that are collected about you before it is collected or at the point of collection and to be informed of any changes to this collection.
  • The right to know the categories of third parties with whom your

    data is shared. * The right to know the categories of sources of information from whom your

    data was acquired. * The right to know the business or commercial purpose of collecting your

    information.

    Read More: California Consumer Protection: Privacy Rights

Definition of Personal Data

The CCPA defines personal data as information that identifies or relates to a particular customer or household or could reasonably be linked with that customer or household, such as a real name, alias, postal address, Internet Protocol address, email address, account name or passport number.

Information relating to a customer’s education, employment, bank account and other financial information, medical information and health insurance may also be classified as personal data.

However, publicly available information is not classed as personal data for the purposes of the CCPA.

Compliance With the CCPA

The CCPA applies to any business (including a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, association or other legal entity that is not considered a nonprofit entity) that does business in California and satisfies at least one of the following thresholds:

  • Has annual gross revenues in excess of $25 million.
  • Buys or sells the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers or households.
  • Earns more than half of its annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information.

Enforcement of the CCPA

To enforce the CCPA, a consumer can file a civil class action lawsuit for data breaches. The California Attorney General’s Office may decide to prosecute the company instead of allowing civil suits to be brought against it.

In a civil class action lawsuit, a company may be ordered to pay statutory damages between $100 to $750 per California resident and incident, or actual damages, whichever is greater. If a company is prosecuted, it may be fined up to $7,500 for each intentional violation and up to $2,500 for each unintentional violation.

If a California consumer has concerns as to how their personal data is being used by a company, she can contact a California consumer law center, where California consumer lawyers are available to clarify the law and offer advice and assistance.

References

About the Author

Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.