Hilton Hotels Worldwide has been hit with a 25,000 fine this week after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found them non-compliant with a pending investigation.
The initial complaint paired with other reports lead to an investigation of Hilton Worldwide as the parent company to find out if Hilton blocks or encourages the blocking of their customers own wifi devices per corporate policy.
The introduction to the document issued by the FCC reads:
In November 2014, the Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) began a Wi-Fi blocking investigation of Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (Hilton or Company) after receiving a complaint that the Hilton hotel in Anaheim, California blocked visitors’personal Wi-Fi hotspots unless they paid the hotel a $500 fee for Hilton’s Wi-Fi.
The Commission has also received complaints about other Hilton properties. To this day, however, Hilton has refused to comply with the Bureau’s Letter of Inquiry (LOI) ordering the Company to provide documents and information about its Wi-Fi management practices for all relevant Hilton properties. Instead, a Hilton subsidiary initially responded only for a single property, arguing that the scope of the Bureau’s investigation should be limited to Hilton’s activities at its Anaheim hotel.
Those answers were incomplete and inadequate even for that one property.
It’s never a good idea to tell government agencies what you think they should conduct their investigation, especially if you know that you did something wrong and that might come to light very quickly.
Here you can inspect the full document and charge docket for yourself:
The FCC essentially finds Hilton in violation of their duty to comply with an official investigation, missing deadlines, providing insufficient information and at time failing to reply at all to the agencies requests.
In the concluding column the FCC says:
We conclude that Hilton apparently willfully and repeatedly violated a Commission order by failing to respond to the Bureau LOI. As such, Hilton is apparently liable for a forfeiture of $25,000. In order to proceed as efficiently and promptly as possible with our investigation, we order Hilton to provide a subset of the required information within fifteen days, so that we can identify an appropriate sample of venues for further, more detailed responses.
We also order it to provide within the same deadline more complete information regarding its corporate communications regarding its Wi-Fi blocking policies.
It is also outlined that Hilton will continue face drastic and increasing penalties should they continue their non-compliance with the FCC.
This is going to be a nasty issue for Hilton. Their actions clearly speak loud enough that they try to be difficult and provide as little information as possible to the authorities, even less then they are legally obliged to.
Keeping in mind this 25,000$ is just a penalty for non-compliance and not for the initial matter it can prove to be a costly issue at hand. Blocking a customers own Wi-Fi support in order to sell ones own (and often inadequate) Wi-Fi services is going to far and as far as the FCC is concerned also unlawful.
It’s always good to pledge your case to the relevant authorities such as the FCC or in Transportation related matters to the Department of Transportation (DOT). Once complaints about a specific issue begin to pile up the department will conduct and investigation against the entity in question with the objective to clarify the matter but also to issue a large fine if found in violation of the law.