Fly fishing gear

Orvis Tracks Complaints Sells Customer Information | Business

MANCHESTER — A California man has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against The Orvis Company Inc., claiming the internationally renowned Vermont-based sporting goods company violated his privacy by including his name in the sale from their customer lists to marketing companies and data brokers.

Brian Farris is asking the U.S. District Court in Burlington to allow him to escalate his lawsuit into a class action on behalf of anyone else in California whose names and addresses were provided to other third parties, according to court records.

The lawsuit alleges that Orvis was “dissatisfied with traditional sales revenue alone” and moved on to selling and renting mailing lists containing children’s names, addresses, ages, gender, income, ethnicity, religion, ages and information about purchases from the company.

Attempts to reach Simon Perkins, a third-generation president of Orvis, for comment were unsuccessful.

Tucker Kimball, director of public relations for Orvis, said the company has not received a copy of the lawsuit since it was filed and will withhold comment at this time. He said the company was aware that a lawsuit was possible.

Orvis will have approximately 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 company specializing in 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 longstanding conservation programs. Orvis states on its website that it operates over 80 retail stores in the US and UK and maintains a network of over 400 dealers worldwide.

Farris, who does not include his hometown in California in his legal case, has retained Miami attorney Frank S. Hedin to handle the case. Hedin specializes in class action lawsuits over consumer and data privacy issues, according to its website. Hedin is working with Stowe attorney Aaron T. Morris as the local attorney.

Farris, in his lawsuit, said he believes California’s right to publicity law prohibits what Orvis is currently doing with its customers’ information. The law “prohibits the use of a person’s name or likeness on or in connection with any product, property, merchandise or service without the person’s prior consent.”

Orvis maintains an extensive digital database of information about its customers, 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 regularly to data miners, aggregators, appenders and cooperatives, aggressive marketing companies and others, “says the lawsuit.

Farris is asking that he be allowed to represent other members of the class who “have been injured and damaged by Orvis’ uniform misconduct.”

By allowing the case to proceed as a class action, it would provide a uniform resolution. “Individual litigation increases delay and expense for all parties and multiplies the burden on the court system presented by complex legal and factual issues,” the lawsuit said.

Farris requests a jury trial to resolve the dispute.