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California approves online privacy law: Statement by Consumers Union

Thursday, June 28, 2018

More substantial reforms are needed, but law will advance consumer protections, Consumers Union says

SACRAMENTO — California Governor Jerry Brown today signed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (AB 375) into law. State lawmakers quickly advanced and approved the online privacy bill this week to avoid a November ballot initiative that would have put stronger privacy rules in place.

Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, was an early supporter of the ballot initiative.  While the organization said it was pleased that many of the initiative’s provisions were included in the new law, it urged changes to certain aspects of the law that are different from the ballot initiative, and pledged to work for more substantial reforms.

Justin Brookman, the Director of Consumer Privacy and Technology Policy for Consumers Union, said, “We appreciate that this law advances consumer protections in several ways. It gives people access to the information that companies have about them.  It extends the right to control the sale of your data, and it provides new security protections in the wake of the Equifax breach.

“However, we have serious concerns about how this legislation introduces very troubling concepts into law. We oppose a provision in the law that allows companies to charge higher prices to consumers who decline to have their information sold to third parties. The California state constitution grants people an inviolable right to privacy. Consumers should not be charged for exercising that right.

“We are also troubled by the law’s ‘right to cure’ provision which would allow a business to avoid responsibility for breaking the law — as long as it stops within 30 days of being caught. The legislation’s weak enforcement provisions need to be improved before it goes into effect in 2020.

“In many ways, the legislation is an important step in the right direction. We look forward to working with allied groups and state lawmakers to enact more substantial and comprehensive reforms to California’s privacy and security framework in the future.”

Consumers Union sent a letter to the California legislature that highlights the consumer protections in the legislation and its concerns about other elements of the law, which is available online here.


Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, or Kara Kelber, kara.kelber@consumer.org

Consumers Union is the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.