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A recent case in federal district court in Florida foreshadows the beginning of an expanded reach of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a whole, the Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Recently, a growing number of lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and private litigants threatening class action lawsuits serves as a strong caution to businesses operating websites to increase accessibility of those sites to disabled individuals.

The future has arrived, and it has a strange sense of humor. Pokémon Go — an “augmented reality” game that requires players to travel to real world locations to capture imaginary monsters through apps on their mobile devices — is changing how millennials choose their travel destinations and hotels. These games have inspired a new generation of travelers, and present novel opportunities to businesses in the hospitality sector.

Most credit and debit cards in the U.S., and the point of sale terminals and ATMs that read them, still use “magnetic stripe” technology. Magnetic stripes are obsolete and relatively insecure, allowing fraudulent practices such as “skimming” (acquiring cardholder and account data by “reading” the strip, and then making fraudulent transactions or counterfeit cards). Magnetic stripe-based technology also does not support secure data transmission through contact or near-field contactless interfaces, which is seen as impeding the emergence of fully mobile cardless payment modes in the U.S. 

businessman pushing button five rating stars

The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), which investigates business practices and enforces anti-competition and consumer protection legislation in the UK, just released a report and call for information that signals more scrutiny for online reviews and endorsements. Though the report does not identify companies or sites that will be the subject of investigation, it expresses a general concern that a number of businesses are breaking the law. The report does not point fingers, but it’s worth noting that the hospitality industry is mentioned several times as an area of particular interest, based in part on a survey conducted by the British Hospitality Association in March of this year. Consumer reliance on reviews for vacation travel, the relatively higher cost for hospitality related services, and the sensitivity of the hospitality related services to negative reviews were cited by the CMA as reasons why the industry is an area of particular concern.

In today’s post, Malcolm Seymour, a member of our New York office who specializes in commercial litigation and regulatory enforcement actions, discusses the benefits and legal considerations for those who provide free WiFi to their hospitality customers.

Free WiFi symbol

Tags: dmca, WiFi

Keyboard with key for review

In the past twelve months we have reported on a Virginia case, Yelp!, Inc., v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., (“Hadeed”) that was closely watched because the case dealt with whether a business owner could unmask an anonymous blogger that posted specific critical reviews on Yelp! of his carpet cleaning company. This week the Virginia Supreme Court said, “No”. Hadeed had subpoenaed Yelp! to provide information in Virginia that would identify the authors of the reviews under a new Virginia statute, that requires only that a business prove that a negative review is, or “may be defamatory” or that it has a legitimate good-faith basis for believing that the review is defamatory in order to learn the identity of the reviewer. Hadeed presented evidence that could prove that the seven negative reviewers were not actual customers of the carpet cleaners, which a lower court found could mean that the reviews could be defamatory.

How secure is the data on your office copier? Today's post from Benjamin Lambiotte, technology and data privacy attorney in Garvey Schubert Barer's D.C. office, outlines the data security risks associated with office machines, as well as the warning signs and steps that you can take to reduce those risks. Thank you, Ben! - Greg

Virus

Are your employees using company email during nonworking hours?  This blog brings the latest developments in NLRB’s ruling and important policy changes that employers can implement to comply with the ruling. Thank you! – Greg

The latest skirmish between businesses and negative on-line reviewers resulted in a win for TripAdvisor. On December 30, 2014 an Oregon trial court ruled that Oregon’s Shield Law protects TripAdvisor from having to disclose the true identity of a poster on its on-line reviewing service. The Ashley Inn, from Lincoln City, sued TripAdvisor reviewer, “12Kelly,” who posted several scathing reviews about the Inn. The Ashley Inn sought to compel the identity of “12Kelly.” A Multnomah County circuit judge refused to do so by applying Oregon’s Media Shield Law, ORS 44.520. That statute protects a reporter from having to disclose the source for information used to prepare a news report. The court found that the Shield Law protected TripAdvisor because it is a “medium of communication.” Hence, TripAdvisor did not have to disclose the identity of its “source” - “12Kelly.”

The hospitality industry regularly faces tremendous challenges, ranging from unexpected tornadoes to salmonella lurking in organic eggs requested by guests. However, negative reviews on TripAdvisor.com or similar sites pose particularly perplexing challenges. Should the business respond or ignore them? Our newest post discusses the latest legal developments regarding negative on-line reviews. – Greg 

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Greg Duff
Editor
Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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