A Letter to Privado

First, I love Privado.  It’s about the only unique place left on Second Street these days.  Sure, I enjoy Molly’s and Pep Grill and Ceoltas.  I’ve even occasionally been dragged into Spice.  But Privado, despite the best efforts of some of its former management, has largely remained my favorite spot.  So I’m understandably frustrated that they’ve failed to address this issue, despite the law being in effect since the earliest days of Noma.

You see, back in 2001, Pennsylvania amended an existing law (the Credit Card Information Act) to protect consumers’ credit card information.  As amended, the act requires merchants to block out all but the last five digits of your card number on a receipt.  In 2003, the Fair Credit Reporting Act was amended by the Fair & Accurate Credit Transactions Act.  This basically reads the same as Pennsylvania’s law, but also provides for damages in the amount of $1000 plus actual damages and legal costs, per violation.  All merchants who use electronically-printed receipts (as opposed to handwritten or imprinted receipts) essentially have to be in compliance no later than December 31, 2007; all of the grace periods have run out as of January 1, 2008.

So I’m puzzled as to why Privado continues to print my card number on receipts.  With the law now made into a federal statute, there are no circumstances under which a merchant can electronically print a receipt containing my full credit card number, so I’m left to wonder why card processors even allow this functionality.

Since I like Privado so much, I decided to send them a letter.  To be fair, they’re not the only merchant doing this.  I’m going to start sending out certified letters to the noncompliant establishments as I come across them, and I may not be as nice to everyone else as I’m being to Privado.  Hopefully they’ll decide to comply.  If they don’t, well, I’ve got a half dozen receipts here; I certainly wouldn’t mind paying down my car that much faster.

20 N Second St
Harrisburg PA  17101
September 29 2008
Dear Privado
This past Friday (9/18/08), I visited your establishment and ran two tabs on my Visa card.  Upon closing my tabs, I was given a receipt that contains my full, unmasked credit card number and expiration date.
I am certain you are aware that this constitutes a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15USC1681), which states in part “…No person that accepts credit cards or debit cards for the transaction of business shall print more than the last 5 digits of the card number or the expiration date upon any receipt provided to the cardholder at the point of the sale or transaction.The act provides damages for noncompliance in the amount of $1000 per incident — not per consumer — as well as legal costs and actual damages.
I have enjoyed coming to Privado for the past half decade (despite its numerous name and management changes).  Given some of the recent changes along Second Street, Privado has become the last unique establishment in town.  As such, I have chosen to contact you directly in the hopes that you are able to remedy this matter before my next visit, or before a less understanding customer visits your establishment.  I urge you to update your card processing procedures and/or equipment immediately.

UPDATE:  As of 01/24/09, Privado still has not corrected this problem.  A second letter has been sent; read all about it here.

7 thoughts on “A Letter to Privado”

  1. Wow, I wouldn’t have ever paid attention to this is it weren’t for this post. I look at my receipts (and use my checkcard almost exclusively), and wouldn’t feel comfortable if my full # was on them.
    The letter’s well written, and quite fair. Good luck!

  2. Thanks. If anyone comes across an establishment printing the entire card number on the receipt, let the manager know they’re not FCRA compliant. If you feel like picking up a few bucks, filing suit at the Magesterial District Justice (what Pennsylvania calls its “small claims” courts) is easy.

    @Jersey, I think every single liquor license holder in the state has filed for that 45-day exemption. Except Cafe Fresco!

  3. The Bangkok Wok in Mechanicsburg has been printing the full card number on reciepts for as long as I can remember.

  4. I too was there last weekend and got the same thing on my receipt. I don’t understand why, if it’s against the law, the card numbers are on the receipt. Keep us posted.

  5. They only have to block out the digits on the receipt they are giving you to take with you, not the receipt they are keeping for their records. Just making sure you are aware of that.

  6. That’s correct, ashley, although a lot of businesses blank the card number on their own copy as well in order to eliminate liability. However, Privado prints the full credit card number on both receipts, which is prohibited.

    Also, I just double-checked the language of the act as well as its effective dates. The FACTA became effective in December 2003. Card processing equipment first used prior to 01/01/05 was given a three-year grace period, while equipment first used after 01/01/05 was given a one-year grace period. In either case, the grace period becomes effective from the date the act passed. So if Privado is using Noma’s old gear, they had until December 2006 to become compliant. If not, they had until December 2004. Even if the grace periods’ start dates were extended to the cutoff date, and Privado was given the longest possible grace period, their latest date for compliance would have been January 1, 2008. This being October 2008, they’re way out of the safety net.

    Privado has not yet picked up my letter. If the thing comes back unclaimed or refused, maybe I’ll just let the court take care of it.

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