Michigan Class Action Accuses Magazine Publisher of Disclosing Subscribers’ Info

A complaint filed last Thursday charged Plus Communications Inc. which does business as Charisma Media with exploiting its readers’ privacy rights. The Grand Rapids, Michigan lawsuit asserted the defendant’s self-titled magazine, Charisma, collected subscribers’ personal identifying and demographic information and offered it for sale without their permission in violation of Michigan’s Preservation of Personal Privacy Act.

Specifically, the filing alleged that Charisma “rented, exchanged, and/or otherwise disclosed detailed information about Plaintiffs’ Charisma magazine subscriptions to data aggregators, data appenders, data cooperatives, and list brokers, among others, which in turn disclosed their information to aggressive advertisers, political organizations, and non-profit companies.” Consequently, the plaintiffs explained, they received a mountain of unsolicited junk mail.

The subscribers contended that Charisma engaged in the illegal practice until July 30, 2016 for its own financial gain. In particular, Charisma gave away not only home addresses, but also other individualized data and demographic information such as age, gender, income, marital status, and children’s ages.

The complaint asserted that Charisma’s conduct was “not only unlawful, but also dangerous because it allows for the targeting of particularly vulnerable members of society.” It provided the example that anyone could purchase a list of customers, including the names and addresses of all unmarried women older than age of 60 with an annual income of greater than $80,000 who reside in Detroit, Michigan and who subscribe to Charisma magazine for approximately $132 per thousand subscribers.

For relief, the plaintiffs sought the certification of a class of Michigan residents who had their information unauthorizedly disclosed by Charisma prior to July 30, 2016. They also requested an injunction requiring Charisma to obtain consent from Michigan customers prior to the disclosure of their information, $5,000 per class member pursuant to the Preservation of Personal Privacy Act, and costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

The plaintiffs are represented by Bursor & Fisher P.A.