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Guest Files Lawsuit and Seeks Class Action Status Against a Virginia Beach Hotel
Alleging Privacy Law was Violated with Restricted Information Printed on Receipt

By Tom Shean, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 24, 2011--NORFOLK -- A Virginia Beach hotel broke a privacy-protection law by including restricted information on a credit-card receipt, a hotel guest alleges in a suit filed in federal court in Norfolk.

The plaintiff, James T. Buechler of Baltimore County, Md., contends that Marjac Suites on Atlantic Avenue and its owner, Burlage Hotel Associates, violated a federal statute in January by printing Buechler's card-expiration date on his receipt at checkout.

Buechler is seeking damages "on behalf of himself and the thousands of other consumers placed at risk by defendant's unlawful practice," according to the suit, filed Aug. 10.

Buechler is asking the court to certify his suit as a class action. Members of the proposed class would include individuals who received electronically printed receipts for transactions at Marjac Suites after June 30, 2008, and whose receipts bore the expiration date of their credit or debit card.

A willful violation of the statute, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, can trigger damages of $100 to $1,000 per transaction, along with attorneys' fees and costs.

In an effort to curb identity theft and card fraud, Congress in 2003 passed a measure that bars merchants from printing more than the last five digits of a customer's card number on a receipt and from printing the card-expiration date. Merchants who use electronically printed receipts for credit and debit transactions had until 2006 to comply. The deadline was later extended to June 2008.

Buechler's suit noted that the giant card networks Visa and MasterCard and the Federal Trade Commission notified businesses of the need to change card-processing equipment before the restrictions took effect.

Robert C. Goodman Jr., a lawyer with Kaufman & Canoles and registered agent for Burlage Hotel Associates, declined to comment on the suit. "We've not been served, and I've not seen the papers," he said.

Scores of retailers and restaurants throughout the country have been hit with similar suits seeking damages for disclosure of card-expiration dates on customers' receipts. In June, the operator of Chili's Bar & Grill restaurants in Texas was sued by a patron who made allegations similar to Buechler's.

Two suits brought against other restaurant chains -- one in New Jersey against KFC Corp. and one in Chicago against Taco Bell -- were filed in 2007 and later dismissed.

Tom Shean, (757) 446-2379, tom.shean@pilotonline.com

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(c)2011 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at pilotonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services




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