Does your business use live chats to offer customer service support to your customers? Throughout the past year, hundreds of nearly identical suits have been filed alleging that the live chat features on businesses’ websites may violate the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA). Most of the lawsuits have been filed by attorneys at the Newport Beach, California, firm called Pacific Trial Attorneys, but other firms have brought very similar lawsuits.
CIPA is a set of California penal statutes that are directed against unconsented wiretapping or recording of telephone communications. The CIPA complaints allege that some software vendors that facilitate customer service live chats are acting as third-party eavesdroppers or wiretappers who share sensitive customer information with entities such as Meta for purposes of targeted advertising. In order to fit their allegations of internet-based communications into the CIPA wiretapping and eavesdropping prohibitions protecting telephone communications, the lawsuits often allege that the plaintiffs accessed the defendant’s live chat through their smart phone’s web browser.
The Conkle firm attorneys believe the plaintiff law firms’ approach is a flawed legal theory that is an unwarranted attempt to extend the scope of the CIPA statute. At present, no reported decisions have determined the merits of these types of claims, and it appears that most of the lawsuits are intended primarily to draw settlements from defendants wishing to avoid the expense and risk of defending themselves.
It is also important that you respond quickly and appropriately if you receive a warning letter or demand from a law firm claiming that your business is violating CIPA. A swift and appropriate response is an important part of your defense to such claims and may ward off a lawsuit that is otherwise almost sure to follow. Should you receive a demand letter alleging a CIPA violation based on the above-conduct, it is best to promptly contact experienced counsel for guidance and assistance. Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorneys are very familiar with this area of the law and can guide your business to improve website chat features to forestall such claims, respond to demand letters or, if necessary, defend CIPA litigation.