On August 12, 2019, in White v. Square, Inc.. the California Supreme Court answered a novel question — that is, can a plaintiff who has only visited a business’s website but has neither engaged the business’s services, bought any products, or visited the business’ bricks-and-mortar store sue for alleged violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. That Act assures full and equal access to all businesses in California by making discrimination against customers and other persons illegal.
In White v. Square, the California Supreme Court ruled merely by visiting an online website with the intent of using a business’s services, a person has standing to sue if she encounters terms and conditions that allegedly deny that plaintiff full and equal access to the business’ services. It is not necessary for that person to (a) enter into any kind of agreement or arrangement with the business or (b) attempt to make any purchase or transact business. It is sufficient simply if the person visited the business’ website with the intent to engage in business and then encountered discriminatory terms and conditions.
In reaching its decision, the California Supreme Court recognized the broad and remedial purpose of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act to prevent arbitrary and invidious discrimination by businesses.
This decision makes it clear that even businesses with no “brick and mortar” presence in California can be sued here for violating the Unruh Civil Rights Act if that business (or its website) imposes any discriminatory term or condition that prevents that person from full and equal access to that business’ services.
You can read the Court’s decision in White v. Square, Inc. here.