April 9, 2018 / 4:02 PM / 5 months ago

Consumer Reports publisher in $16.4 mln reader data privacy settlement

NEW YORK, April 9 (Reuters) - The publisher of Consumer Reports magazine has reached a $16.375 million settlement of a lawsuit claiming it violated Michigan privacy law by selling readers’ subscription and personal data to third parties without their consent.

A preliminary settlement of the proposed class-action case against Consumers Union was filed on Monday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and requires a judge’s approval.

Consumers Union was accused of selling customers’ magazine subscription histories and reading habits to data mining companies and others in exchange for demographic and lifestyle data, and then selling “enhanced” customer profiles containing this data to other companies for a profit.

Data that was allegedly shared included age, race, religion, income levels, charitable donations, medical conditions, political affiliations and travel habits, court papers show.

Consumers Union denied wrongdoing in reaching the settlement, which insurers will cover, but settled to avoid “further expense, inconvenience, and burden,” court papers show.

The nonprofit and its lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Monday’s settlement covers about 560,000 people who lived in Michigan from April 2010 to October 2016 and subscribed to a Consumer Reports publication.

The lead plaintiff was Don Ruppel, a Consumer Reports subscriber who claimed he received “harassing” junk mail and phone solicitations because his personal information was sold.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs may seek up to $5.46 million for legal fees and costs, court papers show.

The case is Ruppel v Consumers Union of United States Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-02444. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)

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