MANCHESTER — A California man has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against The Orvis Company Inc., claiming the internationally known Vermont-based sporting goods business violated his privacy by including his name when selling their customer lists to marketing companies and data brokers.
Brian Farris is asking the U.S. District Court in Burlington to allow him to turn his complaint into a class action lawsuit on behalf of anybody else in California who had their names and addresses provided to other third parties, court records show.
The lawsuit maintains Orvis was “unsatisfied with traditional sales revenue alone” and moved on to selling and renting mailing lists containing names, addresses, age, gender, income, ethnicity, religion, children’s age and information about purchases from the company.
Attempts to reach Simon Perkins, a third-generation company president for Orvis, for comment was unsuccessful.
Tucker Kimball, Orvis director of public relations, said the company has not received a copy of the lawsuit since it was filed and would withhold comment for the time being. He said the company was aware a lawsuit was possible.
Orvis will have about three weeks to file a written response to the 10-page lawsuit once it is served on the company.
Orvis, founded in 1856 in Manchester, is a family-owned retail and mail-order business focusing on fly fishing, hunting and sporting goods. It is believed to be the oldest mail-order in the United States. It is also well-known for its long-running conservation programs.
Orvis says on its website it operates more than 80 retail stories in the United States and United Kingdom, and maintains a network of more than 400 dealers worldwide.
Farris, who does not include his hometown in California in his legal filing, has retained Miami lawyer Frank S. Hedin to handle the case. Hedin specializes in class action lawsuits on consumer and data privacy issues, according to his website. Hedin is working with Stowe lawyer Aaron T. Morris as local counsel.
Farris in his lawsuit said he believes California’s right of publicity statute prohibits what Orvis is currently doing with its customer information. The law “prohibits using a person’s name or likeness on or in connection with a product, good, piece of merchandise, or a service without the person’s prior consent.”
Orvis maintains a vast digital database comprised of its customers information, according to the lawsuit.
“Orvis has sold and rented (and continues to sell and rent) these lists on the open market to anyone willing to pay for them, including on a regular basis to data miners, aggregators, appenders, and cooperatives, aggressive marketing companies and others,” the lawsuit said.
Farris asks that he be allowed to represent others in the class that “were injured and sustained damages by Orvis’s uniform wrongful conduct.”
By allowing the case to proceed as a class action lawsuit it would provide for a uniform resolution. “Individual litigation increases the delay and expense to all parties and multiple the burden on the judicial system presented by the complex legal and factual issues,” the lawsuit said.
Farris is asking for a jury trial to resolve the dispute.