SACRAMENTO, Calif. (9/4/08)--California consumers attained a legislative victory with the Sunday passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 1656, legislation that aims to protect consumer debit and credit card information from hackers and identity thieves, according to the California Credit Union League. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has until Sept. 30 to act on the legislation. AB 1656, authored by Sacramento Assemblyman Dave Jones, seeks to ensure that California retailers and government agencies protect consumers’ sensitive financial data and take responsibility for any unauthorized access of that information. The legislation is sponsored by the league. “This has been a two-year battle to pass legislation that provides consumers substantial new protection from retail data breaches,” said Bill Cheney, league president/CEO. “We urge the governor to acknowledge the solid vote of approval from the California legislature by quickly signing the bill into law.” The bill passed by a 34-3 margin in the Senate, and a 74-1 margin in the Assembly. AB 1656 would require retailers to adopt security standards based on industry best practices when storing consumers’ credit and debit card information, and give consumers better information about when and where their personal financial information is stolen during a data breach. In 2006, the nation’s largest data breach of TJX Cos. data resulted in the theft of 46.5 million consumers’ credit or debit card information. While credit unions and other financial institutions worked to replace the breached cards, they were not able to inform consumers of where the breach occurred--leaving many consumers frustrated at retailers’ lack of attention to security measures. “Consumers should be able to feel confident when making purchases that their personal data is kept safe and secure,” Cheney said. “Passage of this bill will help strengthen consumer confidence and require full transparency for any future breaches that may occur.” Last October, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar league-backed bill--AB 779--also authored by Jones, after intense opposition from retailers and bankers. At the time, Cheney pledged the league would renew efforts to pass a data protection bill to aid California consumers (News Now Oct. 16). AB 779 had required retailers to reimburse customers for replacement costs of debit and credit cards. AB 1656 removed that provision (Associated Press Aug. 31).