“Regardless of the content of the call, hoteliers should be ensuring that they are using automatic disclosures—in order to obtain consumer consent—if using an automatic recording system. If an operator becomes the target of one of these consumer privacy class actions, taking an aggressive approach and attacking these claims as incongruent with the legislative purpose and intent behind the respective statute is a recommended.”
In the past few years, class action plaintiffs have recovered billions of dollars in punitive damages by exploiting strict liability laws that punish businesses for failing to properly notify customers when a phone call is being recorded.
Under the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and similar state statutes, businesses including hotels are prohibited from using certain tactics when telemarketing or making calls to solicit potential guests or customers. Hotels and other businesses are precluded from making calls or using any kind of prerecorded message, unless the caller has obtained a recipient’s prior express consent in writing or electronically.
Additionally, hoteliers are prohibited from making calls to residences before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m., and a future hotel guest calling to confirm a reservation also must be notified if the call is recorded. Hence, under these laws, if a hotel receptionist in Montana receives a call from a California resident to confirm a reservation but never notifies the recipient that the call is being recorded, it could result in damages ranging from $500 to $5,000 per call under federal and state laws.
This seemingly innocuous business practice of recording customer service calls without providing some variation of the oft-heard disclosure, “This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes” has the potential to financially cripple a business.
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Hospitality Law Conference
Presented by Anderson Kill and Petra Risk Solutions: Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at The Cornell Club in New York
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In analyzing the searches and seizures from hotel rooms, the court recognized that while a guest is legally registered in a room, the hotel room is a temporary residence and thus, just like their primary residence, the guest is entitled to the same protections under the Fourth Amendment to their guest rooms in a hotel as they would for their primary residence.
Many municipalities have enacted ordinances that authorize local police agencies to enter a hotel during regular business hours and request an inspection of the guest register to obtain information as to who is in the hotel, when they checked in and their anticipated check out time, how long the guest has stayed in the hotel, manner of payment and private information given by the guest to the desk clerk regarding their home address, car license plate and drivers license information. The municipalities argue that such ordinances and warrantless searches are necessary to help stop prostitution and drugs or to ensure compliance with the length of time requirements for motel guests. Many hotel operators have allowed the police agencies to inspect the guest registers without objection as they did not want to be subject to arrest or citation for not complying with the police requests.
However, some managers have objected and have been convicted of failure to comply with the inspection request. They argue that the police need a warrant to search the hotel registers and further, that the ordinances are not specifically limited to time, scope and duration of the inspection allowed or an opportunity to seek judicial review of the ordinance before being subjected to arrest and conviction for refusing to comply with the police agency’s request.
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Under the ordinance, which took effect last month, motel owners must apply for a conditional use permit to allow any new long-term tenants. To be granted a permit, the motel must meet requirements such as providing on-site laundry facilities, installing kitchens in every room and having at least 75 rooms.
A recently enacted law that limits how long people can stay at motels in Costa Mesa was illegally designed to target low-income residents, a lawsuit filed against the city alleges.
The Public Law Center, a Santa Ana-based pro bono law firm, sued this week on behalf of a group of residents to block an ordinance adopted last August limiting when motel guests can rent a room for more than 30 days.
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