Latest regulatory updates
Last updated 3 September
Kurt Janson, Director of the Tourism Alliance, gives a monthly update on the latest regulatory changes affecting the hospitality industry.
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Over the last couple of years a range of new sophisticated monitoring devices for self-catering properties have come on the market. These devices are able to monitor things such as noise levels, movement and the number of mobile phone signals in a property. They are being sold to accommodation providers as a means of helping ensure that a property doesn’t become a party house, which could be damaged or annoy the neighbours.
Such devices are popular with self-catering operators in places like Barcelona, where properties are licensed and complaints from neighbours could see the operator’s licence being revoked.
With their increasing promotion in the UK, there has been a growing number of queries regarding their legality under the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Most of these devices seem to be designed to avoid being subject to the Data Protection and GDPR requirements, in that they don’t transmit or record personal data. For example, the noise monitoring devices simply provides a warning if a certain decibel limit has been exceeded, rather than recording and transmitting conversations, while the mobile phone signal monitoring devices record how many devices are active in the property, rather than recording the mobile phone numbers.
However, even if these devices are not subject to this legislation, that doesn’t mean that they can be freely used by accommodation providers.
It is important to remember that guests have a right to privacy when staying in any accommodation. There have even been legal cases where hotels have been deemed to be breaching the guest’s right to privacy by staff entering their hotel room unannounced too frequently.
To balance the use of these devices against a guest’s right to privacy, there are two principles that operators need to comply with - Disclosure and Proportionality.
If you are going to use a monitoring device, you need to tell potential guests before they book the property so that they can make an informed decision as to whether they are willing to stay in a property with a device that encroaches on their privacy. While this could deter some potential guests, it can also be a positive as it will discourage people who are thinking of using a property as a party house.
Secondly, your use of monitoring devices needs to be proportionate to the problem that you are trying to solve. For example, with the use of CCTV cameras to prevent the theft of guests’ possessions, it is proportionate to have a CCTV camera monitoring the entrance to the hotel but it is not proportionate to have the camera in the guest’s bedroom. Similarly with noise monitoring devices that are used to ensure guests are not having parties, it would be proportionate to fit a device in the lounge but it would not be proportionate to be monitoring noise levels in the guest’s bedroom.
Overall, while the use of these devices is legal and can be a legitimate means of solving a potential problem, their use should be carefully considered. The use of properties as party houses is relatively rare and the intrusion on guests’ privacy will probably not be warranted for most accommodation.