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Citation: Opay v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 681 N.W.2d 394 (Minn. App. 2004).

Factual Background

The plaintiff sued a credit reporting service for overcharging for copies of his credit report. Minnesota law provides that a credit reporting service cannot charge more than $3.00 for consumer credit reports requested and receive by mail. Minn. Stat. § 13C.01.1(a) (2002). The plaintiff had order and receive a copy of his credit report over the Internet and had been charged $9.00 for it.

Appellate Court Decision

The court had to determine whether the term “mail” in the statute included email. The plaintiff pointed out that numerous dictionaries, including Black’s Law Dictionary and Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defined “mail” as including electronic mail. However, the defendants pointed out that these definitions were added to the dictionaries long after the statute had originally been enacted (in 1992). At that time, no dictionary included electronic mail within the definition of “mail.”

Even though the statute had been amended between 1992 and 2004, the court noted that the term “mail” had never been redefined. As such the court held:

We agree with the district court that the plain meaning of “mail” did not include electronic transmissions when the statute was enacted, and the plain meaning of the unmodified term “mail” as currently used in the statute does not include electronic transactions.