In a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Food Marketing Institute prevailed in its efforts to protect the confidentiality of store-level sales data for retailers who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
On June 24, the court remanded and reversed a lower-court judgment against FMI in an ongoing case, Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader.
“At least where commercial or financial information is both customarily and actually treated as private by its owner and provided to the government under an assurance of privacy, the information is ‘confidential’ within the meaning of Exemption 4,” the court wrote in its judgment.
The court concluded that the store-level SNAP data qualifies as “confidential” under this standard. The case involved whether the store-level SNAP redemption data is “confidential” under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“We agree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today that a forty-five-year-old interpretation of what constitutes ‘confidential commercial and financial information’ required reexamination,” says FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin. “Our industry’s commitment to the shopper remains constant amidst seismic marketplace shifts. The nation’s grocery stores have long kept confidential the amount consumers spend at individual stores whether through payment by cash, credit, debit or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. This store-level sales data undoubtedly must be considered confidential because its release would provide an unfair advantage to competitors.”