Customers hoping to test drive a Tesla may want to think twice before handing over their license, according to a new class action lawsuit filed against Elon Musk’s car company.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges the car company coaxes consumers into handing over personal information without their consent by scanning that information from their driver’s licenses before test drives. The suit claims Tesla, along with Experian, Salesforce and app development firm Appstem, violate various consumer privacy protection laws by doing so.
The lawsuit was brought by Wayne Skiles, a California man, on behalf of consumers across the country.
“I think if even a fraction of what we’re alleging is deemed true, it’s a breach of the consumers trust in Tesla and [shows] how their information is being used nefariously,” said the plaintiffs attorney, Abbas Kazerounian, a founding partner at Kazerouni Law Group.
Requests for comment from Tesla, Experian and Appstem were not immediately returned. A Salesforce spokeswoman said in an email the company does not comment on pending litigation.
In the complaint, Skiles claimed he visited a Tesla showroom in Newport Beach, California, in 2015. After talking with a Tesla employee, he decided to test drive one of the cars. The Tesla employee asked to see his driver’s license, which he assumed was to verify he was legally permitted to drive. The employee used an iPad to scan his license, and Skiles then entered his email address and phone number upon request, and agreed to the “Test Drive Agreement” put forth on the device.
The lawsuit alleges the Tesla employee was doing much more than verifying Skiles’ license with the iPad. It claims Tesla uploads information from the magnetic strip of customers’ licenses onto the iPads using an Appstem mobile app, and that information is then added to Tesla’s Salesforce marketing database. Then, the complaint alleges, the information is transmitted via the database to Experian, who then provides a type of credit score based on that information back to Tesla. That data is then uses it for marketing purposes.
The lawsuit claims this scheme violations the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and estimates the class members could “number in the several thousands, if not substantially more.” Skiles is seeking statutory and punitive damages to be determined at trial under all three laws, meaning damages could number in the millions.