Marriott Fined $600,000 for Blocking Guests' Personal Hotspots
Marriott Fined $600,000 by the FCC for Blocking Guests' Personal Hotspots
Marriott International Inc. was recently fined $600,000 by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) when the hotel blocked its guests from connecting to the Internet on their personal WiFi networks. When personal hotspots were rendered inoperable, guests were forced to pay for Marriott's network.
Our firm is investigating claims against Marriott on behalf of consumers whose personal hotspots were blocked by Marriott and who had to purchase their WiFi. Our firm is accepting claims for potential lawsuits, including a potential class action lawsuit.
Marriott, which is based in Bethesda, Maryland, is the world's second-largest publicly traded hotel chain, according to Bloomberg News.
Marriott Caused Many Guests to Pay Twice for Hotspot Technology
Travelers often carry what are known as personal WiFi hotspots, which small devices that enable users to connect to the Internet by cell phone towers. Users pay approximately $50 monthly to connect to the Internet and avoid potentially large fees charged by organizations such as hotels, airports, and conference facilities, the Associated Press (AP) wrote. In some cases, users will pay to update their smartphones' data plans to turn the device into a hotspot.
Business travelers, in particular, have long paid high fees to obtain WiFi service when traveling, particularly during conventions, according to Tech Pro Research. Personal hotspots will often provide faster speeds that may be even faster than costly hotel WiFi systems. It is because of this potential, and expensive, redundancy in what guests paid to access the Internet that the FCC's case is noteworthy—blocking guests' personal hotspots eliminated guests' ability to achieve connectivity.
"It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel's own WiFi network," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc, said in a statement. "This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether."
The Marriott hotel did not jam the signals—that would be illegal. What Marriott did do, according to ZDNet, was to utilize its network hardware to ensure only Marriott hotspots were the hotspots available to guests' devices. A senior FCC official with knowledge of the probe further explained that the unlawful blocking is not so-called "jamming," in which a jammer device is used to block wireless signals. Rather, Marriott staff used its WiFi system's "containment features of a WiFi monitoring system" to block guests' hot spots.
FCC Sanctions Marriott
Marriott employees allegedly blocked the mobile hotspots at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. At the same time, Marriott charged consumers, small businesses, and exhibitors $250 to $1,000 per device to access Marriott's WiFi network (Gaylord WiFi service) in the conference's facilities, according to the FCC. “Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” LeBlanc said in the statement.
In its statement, the FCC also wrote, “The FCC Enforcement Bureau's investigation revealed that Marriott employees had used containment features of a WiFi monitoring system at the Gaylord Opryland to prevent individuals from connecting to the Internet via their own personal WiFi networks, while at the same time charging consumers, small businesses, and exhibitors as much as $1,000 per device to access Marriott's WiFi network.”
The FCC investigation followed a 2013 complaint that was filed by a Marriott guest who indicated that the Marriott convention center was a WiFi dead zone for all hotspots except the Marriott's, ZDNet wrote.
The FCC indicated that Marriott must cease using WiFi-blocking technology, must file compliance and usage reports quarterly for three years, and must pay a $600,000 civil penalty under a consent decree, the FCC indicated. The order affects all of Marriott's more than 3,000 brand hotels in the United States.
For its part, the hotel indicated that it was not involved in any wrongdoing and that it is the agency's policies that should be amended, according to Bloomberg News. Regardless, Marriott International must pay the fine for jamming conference attendees' WiFi networks, leaving them with no options but to pay large fees to access the hotel's WiFi service, noted The Associated Press (AP). Marriott agreed to pay the fine and advised its hotels against using jamming technology in the way it was used at Opryland, the FCC noted.
According to ZDNet, This is the first case of its kind that led to an FCC investigation and sanctions.
Was Your Personal Hotspot Blocked, Forcing You to Pay for a Hotel Hotspot at a Marriott Hotel?
If you suffered losses due to a Marriott hotspot scheme you have valuable legal rights, including filing a potential class action lawsuit. Fill out our online form or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).