Do you examine or shred your receipts before throwing them away? Most of us don’t. Historically, consumers have been protected from sensitive information being printed on receipts. However, recent litigation has uncovered holes in the system, putting some consumers at risk.

Credit Card Confidentiality Under FACTA

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) provides that only the last 5 digits of a credit card may be printed on a receipt. The expiration date cannot be on the receipt either. These restrictions are for obvious reasons: if an unscrupulous individual were to find your credit card information on a crumpled up receipt behind the grocery store you frequent, you could find yourself with Uber charges made by someone in the Netherlands. 

FACTA has been federal law since 2003, with compliance required by all businesses as of December 2006, no matter how old your receipt printing machine was. However, like clockwork, class actions lawsuits against the likes of Best Buy and Costco, to name just a few, were filed in early 2007, alleging that the expiration date in particular was not left off customer receipts. This exposed businesses to penalties upwards of $1,000 per violation. So, Congress got together and decided that companies who printed the expiration date were not in “willful noncompliance” with the law. Those filing lawsuits actually had to have been materially harmed by the practice, their credit hurt or identity stolen. 

FACTA Litigation and Class Actions

The question of actual harm to consumers has continued to surround litigation involving FACTA violations. One case even made its way to the Supreme Court: Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins in May 2016.The court dismissed Mr. Robins case against Spokeo, finding that Mr. Robins didn’t experience “any actual or imminent harm” and what Spokeo did amounted to a “bare procedural violation.” Though Spokeo was alleged to have inaccurate information about Mr. Robins in an online profile, courts have applied this reasoning to the issue of untruncated credit card receipts. That is, harm must have occurred for there to even be standing. Though a few have found that failure to truncate credit card information on a receipt constituted material harm, most have found it not to be so. Cases where the first 6 digits of a card were printed, or the expiration date was printed, have not been able to successfully claim that “harm” has inherently been caused.

Still, there have been a number of FACTA violation class action settlements. In 2017, Subway agreed to pay almost $31 million to a class of 2.6 million customers whose receipts included their credit card expiration date. Just this year, IKEA agreed to pay a little over $24 million for printing more than the last 5 digits of customer credit cards on their receipts.  

So keep your receipts. And if you see all 16 of your credit card numbers, you could be a member of a future class action lawsuit. 

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