SAN FRANCISCO, Ca. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District has ordered Marriott International, an American diversified hospitality company, to remove pinhole cameras installed in shower-heads from all of its U.S. properties by early 2016.
The ruling reverses a previous decision by Judge Stephen K. Schmidt of the U.S. District Court of Nevada, who ruled in favor of Marriott’s use of the cameras. The company has utilized the closed circuit cameras for “liability purposes” since 2006, following an unsuccessful lawsuit filed by an elderly guest who was knocked unconscious after falling in the shower.
Ray Cutler, an attorney for Marriott International, says the company has already filed an appeal and will fight the decision. “This sets a dangerous precedent for hotels and the service industry as a whole, where the customer’s well-being falls under the responsibility of the proprietor,” Cutler said.
Most hotels don’t disclose the existence or location of in-room CCTV cameras out of fear of backlash from their customer base but, according to Cutler, the practice is done “purely from a safety and security standpoint.” In some locations overseas, such as Asian or Eastern European countries, Cutler said, “It’s not uncommon to have these cameras installed throughout the room. They aren’t restricted to the bathroom. In fact, many host governments require the use of in-room closed circuit monitoring. It’s a requirement to operate a business over there.”
Attorneys representing Hilton and Starwood Hotels said both hospitality companies have filed similar suits appealing the court’s decision. “It’s standard practice in the industry,” Vikramijit Singh, a travel agent who works for Expedia, told this reporter, adding,” Everyone does it.”
Marriott has until January of 2016 to remove the closed-circuit cameras from its U.S. locations. However, others in the hospitality industry say they will continue to maintain the practice, out of concern for their customers, until ordered otherwise.