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Watkins v. AutoZone Parts

September 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court


On July 31, 2009, Defendants AutoZone Parts, Inc. and AutoZone West, Inc. (collectively, "AutoZone" or "Defendants") filed a motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff Matthew Watkins's first cause of action for a violation of the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act. (Doc. Nos. 37-41, 43.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition on September 14, 2009. (Doc. No. 49.) Defendants filed a reply on September 21, 2009. (Doc. No. 50.) The Court held a hearing on the matter on September 28, 2009. Jennifer Anne Carmassi and Monica Klosterman appeared on behalf of Defendants, and James R. Patterson appeared on behalf of Plaintiff.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's first cause of action.


Plaintiff brought this class action alleging that Defendants violated California laws by requesting personal information, including telephone numbers, from customers purchasing items with a credit card at AutoZone retail locations in California. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated (1) California Civil Code section 1747.08 (Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971); and (2) the California Constitution's privacy provision. According to Plaintiff, Defendants requested and recorded customers' telephone numbers as part of processing credit card transactions and used this information to acquire additional personal information in violation of these laws. (FAC ¶ 3.) Defendants now move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's first cause of action for a violation of the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act (the "Act").

On May 12, 2008, Plaintiff purchased a brake pad set and brake lubricant with his Mastercard from an AutoZone store located at 1950 Cable Street in San Diego. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Def's Stmt. of Uncontroverted Material Facts ISO Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Facts") ¶ 5.) Only certain products AutoZone sells are eligible to be registered for a warranty. (Id. ¶ 35.) These products are vehicle specific and most that are eligible are located behind a parts lookup counter in an area of the store that customers cannot access. (Id. ¶¶ 36-37.) In order to obtain these products for purchase, customers need the assistance of an AutoZone employee at the parts lookup counter. (Id. ¶ 37.) The brake pad set Plaintiff purchased was located behind the counter, so an AutoZone employee selected the brake pad set and retrieved it for Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff testified that after he brought all his products to the register, he gave an employee his card, the employee ran it and asked for Plaintiff's phone number, Plaintiff gave his phone number, Plaintiff got his receipt and left the store. (Doc. No. 43, Carmassi Decl. Ex. 8, Watkin's Depo. 65:24-66:7.)

AutoZone's records show that the brake pad set Plaintiff purchased was registered for a warranty on May 12, 2008. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 7; Doc. No. 40, Sikandar Decl. ¶ 5, Exs. 1, 4.) Information relating to the warranty is printed directly on the customer's receipt for the product covered by the warranty. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 52.) Plaintiff lost his receipt, but AutoZone maintained a duplicate copy of the receipt containing information relating to the warranty for the brake pad set. (Pl.'s Facts ¶¶ 8-9.) The duplicate copy of Plaintiff's receipt contains the products Plaintiff purchased, the purchase price of the products, the last four digits of Plaintiff's MasterCard number, Plaintiff's name, address, and phone number, warranty information for the brake pads, and "1989 Jeep Cherokee 4WD." (Id. ¶¶ 10-12, 15; Doc. No. 40, Sikandar Decl., Ex. 1.)

AutoZone's warranty registration service permits its customers to have eligible products registered for warranties regardless of what method of payment the customer uses to purchase products and the process for registering a warranty does not depend upon the customer paying for the warrantied item with his or her credit card. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 41.) AutoZone's warranty database does not contain any information regarding the method of payment the customer used to purchase the covered product, including but not limited to customers' credit card numbers and credit card expiration dates. (Id. ¶ 45.) AutoZone requests customers to provide personal identification information to connect the identity of the customer who registers for a warranty to the product covered by the warranty, and to identify potential fraud. (Id. ¶ 49.) AutoZone does not honor warranties without warranty documentation unless the customer is able to provide the information, such as a telephone number or address, that he or she gave at the time of warranty registration. (Id. ¶ 54.)

The parties do not dispute that AutoZone asks customers to provide certain information for purposes of retail credit card transactions in limited situations, including requesting the customer's billing zip code for manually keyed credit card transactions, requesting a form of positive identification when the customer's name and signature on the credit card transaction form do not match the name and signature on the credit card, and requesting a positive form of identification when the credit card is not signed in order to verify whether the name on the form of identification matches the name on the credit card. (Id. ¶¶ 23-26.)


I. Summary Judgment - Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Section (b) provides that "a party against whom relief is sought may move at any time, with or without supporting affidavits, for summary judgment on all or part of the claim." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b). A motion for summary judgment should not be granted unless the pleadings, affidavits and evidence on file present "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "Summary judgment should be granted where the evidence is such that it would require a directed verdict for the moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). Thus, "Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment ... against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The parties also request the Court to take judicial notice of various documents. (Doc. Nos. 41 & 49.) The Court grants the parties' requests to the extent the offered ...

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