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Starwood data hack shows need for China to explore class-action lawsuits

China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-04 07:26

[Photo/VCG]

INTERNATIONAL HOTEL CHAIN MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL disclosed on Friday that the guest reservation database of its Starwood properties had been hacked. A few hours later consumer class-action lawsuits were filed. Beijing News comments:

The security breach is believed to have compromised the information of as many as 500 million guests, exposing in some cases credit card numbers, passport numbers and birthdates.

According to Marriott International's statement on its official website, Marriott found unauthorized access to the Starwood network had taken place as early as in 2014. But the company knew nothing about it until Sept 8 this year when it received an alert about an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database.

It reflects that Marriott has serious weakness in protecting the guests' personal information, which means it may face a huge fine.

Marriott International claimed that it has reported to law enforcement and would cooperate with the investigation of this cyberattack incident. Based on the strict legal protection of privacy in the United States, the company may face severe punishment because of the personal information leak.

Marriott International's business extends to the US and 67 other countries and regions. But according to media reports, Marriott International said whether this cyberattack incident involves Starwood properties in China is still under investigation.

In the US, if a major corporation's misconduct causes a loss to the public, a law firm will contact the victims and file a class-action lawsuit on their behalf. The victims only need to sign an authorization to authorize the lawsuit's class representatives to deal with the legal matters.

Although the Civil Procedure Law in China also stipulates class-action lawsuits, in reality there are few large-scale class-action lawsuits except in the securities field. In general judiciary authorities are very cautious about class-action lawsuits.

If a cyberattack that results in guest personal information leak takes place in China, it is still not clear how the victims could safeguard their rights. That's part of the reason why foreign companies take different attitudes to foreign and Chinese consumers after serious incidents that undermine consumer interests are exposed.

We should learn from the successful experience of class-action lawsuits in foreign countries, in order to safeguard the Chinese consumers' rights and interests.

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