Grocer Hannaford Hit with Class Action Suit over Data Breach

March 21, 2008

Hannaford Bros. Co. has been hit with two class action lawsuits filed on behalf of consumers whose credit and debit card numbers were compromised as a result of a major security breach.

A Philadelphia law firm, Berger & Montague, said it filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland, alleging that the supermarket chain was negligent for failing to provide adequate security for computer data. The firm said the breach has exposed Hannaford customers to the risk of fraud, forcing them to spend time monitoring their accounts and dispute fraudulent charges.

A similar lawsuit filed a day earlier in U.S. District Court in Bangor by attorney Samuel W. Lanham Jr. The lawsuit does not seek specific damages, but the complaint states that “the matter in controversy exceeds $5 million.”

Carol Eleazer, Hannaford vice president of marketing, said the Scarborough-based company has not been served with any complaints and had no comment.

Hannaford announced Monday that 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers were exposed and at least 1,800 were subjected to fraud. Hannaford became aware of the breach Feb. 27. Investigators later discovered that the data breach began on Dec. 7; it wasn’t contained until March 10.,

Affected by the breach were all 165 Hannaford stores in New England and New York, 106 Sweetbay stores in Florida and a smaller number of independent stores in the Northeast that sell Hannaford products. Hannaford and Sweetbay are owned by the Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize America.

Although the case is among the largest security breaches on record, it is much smaller than the tens of millions of credit cards that were exposed at TJX Cos. of Framingham, Mass., which has 2,500 stores and includes the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls chains.

In its announcement, Berger & Montague identified itself as co-lead counsel in a class action against TJX stemming from the largest reported theft of credit card information.

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