On August 22, 2018, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra raised significant concerns regarding the recently enacted California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”) in a letter addressed to the CCPA’s sponsors, Assemblyman Ed Chau and Senator Robert Hertzberg. Writing to “reemphasize what [he] expressed previously to [them] and [state] legislative leaders and Governor Brown,” Attorney General Becerra highlighted what he described as five primary flaws that, if unresolved, will undermine the intention behind and effective enforcement of the CCPA.
Most of the issues Attorney General Becerra pointed to were those he claimed impose unnecessary and/or onerous obligations on the Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”). For example, the CCPA requires the AGO to provide opinions, warnings and an opportunity to cure to a business before the business can be held accountable for a CCPA violation. Attorney General Becerra said that this effectively requires the AGO to provide unlimited legal counsel to private parties at taxpayer expense, and creates a potential conflict of interest by requiring the AGO to advise parties who may be violating Californians’ privacy rights.
In a similar vein, Attorney General Becerra noted that the CCPA gives consumers a limited right to sue if they become victims of a data breach, but otherwise does not include a private right of action for consumers to seek remedies to protect their privacy. That framework, Attorney General Becerra wrote, substantially increases the AGO’s need for enforcement resources. Likewise, the CCPA requires private plaintiffs to notify the Attorney General before filing suit. Attorney General Becerra criticized this requirement as both without use, since only courts may decide the merits of a case, and a drain on personnel and administrative resources.
Attorney General Becerra also pointed out that the CCPA’s civil penalty provisions purport to amend and modify the Unfair Competition Law’s civil penalty provision. The latter, however, was enacted by voters through a ballot proposition and thus cannot be amended through legislation. For that reason, Attorney General Becerra argued, the CCPA’s civil penalty provision is likely unconstitutional (the letter noted that the AGO has offered “corrective language” that replaces the CCPA’s current penalty provision with a stand-alone enforcement proposition).
Additionally, Attorney General Becerra took issue with the CCPA’s provision that the AGO has one year to conduct rulemaking for the CCPA. Attorney General Becerra noted that the CCPA did not provide resources for the AGO to carry out the rulemaking nor its implementation thereafter; the Attorney General called the existing deadline “simply unattainable.”