- - Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Stores face lawsuits after ZIP code ruling

SAN FRANCISCO | Consumers have filed lawsuits against more than a dozen national retail chains operating in California since the state Supreme Court ruled it’s illegal for clerks to ask customers for their ZIP codes.

The high court unanimously ruled last week that a ZIP code is part of a customers’ address, and a state consumer privacy law forbids stores from requiring addresses during credit card transactions.

The decision against Williams-Sonoma Inc. set off a flurry of litigation, with most of the lawsuits being filed in San Francisco or Los Angeles courts.

Among the retailers facing lawsuits that seek class-action status are Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Macy’s Inc. and Cost Plus Inc. The lawsuits say the companies requested ZIP code information from their customers during the past year.

Attorney Mike Burns, who represents Michaels Stores Inc. in a ZIP code case, said it’s difficult to assess how much each lawsuit could cost each company. State law calls for maximum fines of $250 for the first violation and $1,000 for each additional one, exposing each company to millions of dollars of liability.


Amtrak train evacuated after threat

HELENA | An unruly passenger who was removed from an Amtrak train in northwestern Montana later made a threat that led to the train’s evacuation, an Amtrak official said Tuesday.

Nothing dangerous was found and passengers endured an 11-hour delay, arriving in Whitefish just before 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said a passenger was removed from the train in Browning shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday. While being interviewed by local authorities, the man “somehow threatened the safety of the train.”

The train was stopped between Browning and East Glacier and its 150 passengers were taken to a middle school in Browning. A K-9 unit helped search the train.

Officials did not release the man’s name or say where he boarded the train, which travels from Chicago across northern North Dakota and Montana to Seattle and Portland, Ore.


Workers in abortion clinic probe removed

HARRISBURG | Gov. Tom Corbett said he’s removing a number of state employees as a result of an investigation into the operation of a Philadelphia abortion clinic where a doctor is accused of performing illegal abortions that resulted in the deaths of a patient and viable infants.

Mr. Corbett said Tuesday that the employees worked at the Department of Health and the Department of State, which licenses health care workers.

He said that in some cases he’s accepted resignations. Others have been dismissed outright. Some are suspended while his aides investigate.

A grand jury that investigated the clinic had scathing criticism for Pennsylvania’s state health and medical regulators for allowing the conditions at the clinic to exist unchecked for years.


Hasbro wins lawsuit over Play-Doh trademark

PAWTUCKET | A British court said Play-Doh by any other name is a trademark infringement — even if it’s spelled differently.

The United Kingdom High Court on Friday found that a German toy company, 123 Nahrmittel, had infringed the trademark of Hasbro Inc.’s iconic Play-Doh because it used the phrase “play dough” on its Yummy Dough product. Yummy Dough’s box describes it as “the edible play dough.”

Hasbro sued the company and its British supplier last year.

123 Nahrmittel said on its website that it is disappointed by the decision and it is considering its options, including a possible appeal in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in Europe.

A spokesman for Hasbro says the Pawtucket, R.I.-based company actively enforces its intellectual property rights around the world.


Delta, American boost some air fares by up to $120

DALLAS | Delta and American are raising the price of some tickets favored by business travelers up to $120 per round trip.

Fare experts said Delta started the increase on Monday and was matched by American.

It’s the second big increase in fares in as many weeks. Airlines eliminated many flights when oil prices were high and the economy was weak, giving them power to raise fares now that planes are more crowded and travel demand is rebounding.

JP Morgan analyst Jamie Baker said it made sense for Delta and American to target corporate travelers, who are considered less sensitive to price increases. He said it also might indicate that airlines have raised vacation fares as much as they can without causing a loss of revenue - presumably by hurting ticket sales.

American Airlines spokesman Ed Martelle said the increases covered first-class, business-class and 7-day advance-purchase tickets. Flights up to 500 miles were boosted $20 each way, those from 501 to 1,500 miles were raised $40 each way, and flights longer than 1,500 miles increased by $60 each way, he said.

Last week, United and Continental led an increase of $20 to $60 per round trip on pricey tickets typically bought by business travelers. Delta and American both matched that hike last week.


Audit: Contractor, human error caused outage

RICHMOND | Human error by contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. was to blame for a computer system crash that idled many state government agencies for days in August, according to an external audit completed at Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s request.

The audit, by technology consulting firm Agilysis and released Tuesday, found that Northrop Grumman had not planned for an event such as the failure of a memory board, aggravating the failure. It also found that the data loss and the delay in restoration resulted from a failure to follow industry best practices.

At least two dozen agencies were affected by the late-August statewide crash of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. The crash paralyzed the departments of Taxation and Motor Vehicles, leaving people unable to renew driver’s licenses. The disruption also affected 13 percent of Virginia’s executive branch file servers.

Officials have said the outage originated with a data storage unit roughly the size of eight refrigerators in a data center in Chester.

From wire dispatches and staff reports