Countdown to July 1, 2020: What is a “consumer” under the CCPA?

by | May 7, 2020 | Legal Updates, Privacy

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) became effective on January 1, 2020, with California’s Attorney General recently confirming an enforcement date of July 1, 2020 in spite of current COVID-19 disruptions to businesses. The CCPA provides new rights and protections for “consumers” – but what exactly is a “consumer” for purposes of the CCPA?

Section 1798.140(g) of the CCPA is reproduced below:

(g) “Consumer” means a natural person who is a California resident, as defined in Section 17014 of Title 18 of the California Code of Regulations, as that section read on September 1, 2017, however identified, including by any unique identifier.

The above-referenced section of the California Code of Regulations (18 CCR § 17014) is entitled “Who Are Residents and Nonresidents” and begins with the following introductory paragraph:

The term “resident,” as defined in the law, includes (1) every individual who is in the State for other than a temporary or transitory purpose, and (2) every individual who is domiciled in the State who is outside the State for a temporary or transitory purpose. All other individuals are nonresidents.

The CCPA, by defining the term “consumer” as any California resident, provides much broader coverage than one might expect from typical usage of the term. Consider Wikipedia’s page for consumer, which identifies a consumer as:

“a person or a group who intends to order, orders, or uses purchased goods, products, or services primarily for personal, social, family, household and similar needs, not directly related to entrepreneurial or business activities.”

A literal reading of the CCPA definition of the term “consumer” could encompass not only California-based customers of a business but also its California-based employees and even its California-based business contacts and vendors. The 2019 CCPA Amendments granted businesses some temporary exemptions from certain CCPA requirements in the context of employees and B2B contacts, extending through January 1, 2021. Businesses should be aware of the broad coverage provided based on the CCPA’s definition of the term “consumer” and the potential expiration of the limited exemptions afforded by the 2019 CCPA Amendments.

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