Hotel chain Marriott is facing a class action lawsuit after a data breach in which the personal details of 300 million customers worldwide were stolen. It is believed around seven million of those were based in the UK. The personal details included names, addresses, credit card details, passport numbers and dates of birth. When Marriott investigated the breach they found that hackers had had unauthorised access to its systems since 2014.

The legal action is being brought on behalf of people living in England & Wales who made a reservation at a Marriott Starwood hotel before 10 September 2018. The lawsuit is opt-out so anyone included in that description will be included unless they choose not to be. Class actions are relatively unusual in England & Wales, but more common in the US. They are a way of bringing a single legal action where a large number of individuals have been affected by the same incident.

The UK’s data protection regulator, The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has investigated the data breach and has proposed to fine Marriott £99.2 million. However, Marriott has appealed and the regulator has yet to make its final decision. This regulatory process is entirely separate to the class action lawsuit. As the ICO cannot award compensation to individuals, bringing a civil legal action is the only way for those affected personally to obtain compensation, unless a company agrees to provide it voluntarily. Given the large number of customers involved, even if a court awarded modest damages to each person, the total figure Marriott faces could be enormous. This is a warning to all data controllers (the vast majority of companies and sole traders working in broadcasting and television production) of the potential consequences of not keeping personal data secure.  Time to check your privacy notices, and data protection and security protocols!

Abbas Media Law are experts in all aspects of data protection law and regulation as they apply to the production and exploitation of media content.  For advice, contact info@abbasmedialaw.com