John Starkey, president of USPoultry
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has ruled in favor of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (aka USPoultry) in a case concerning hotel-room poaching for the organization's 2017 International Production & Processing Expo, in which it partners with the American Feed Industry Association and the North American Meat Institute. The court awarded $749,797.50 in damages and attorney's fees to USPoultry on Jan. 22, after the association sued over the alleged deceptive advertising practices of Tarzango LLC, which was not an official partner of the convention.
According to USPoultry, last year Tarzango sent unsolicited emails to IPPE exhibitors and attendees, saying that the solicitation was on behalf of IPPE, despite the fact that Tarzango was not affiliated with IPPE or its authorized housing partner, Experient.
Room pirating and poaching scams cost convention hosts millions of dollars a year. Recognizing the growing threat from this type of marketing, the U.S. House and Senate are both considering variations of the Stop Online Booking Scams Act (find the House bill here and the Senate bill here).
"We, with the full support of our partners AFIA and NAMI, asserted our rights and have protected attendees and exhibitors from Tarzango's unfair and deceptive practices," said John Starkey, president of USPoultry, of the victory. "This decision should serve as a strong warning to those service providers who seek to trade off of the strong goodwill developed in IPPE."
Tarzango has not responded to M&C's request for comment.
Don't think this case will turn the industry around, however, warns John S. Foster, Esq., an industry attorney with Foster, Jensen & Gulley in Atlanta. "This was a default judgment. The other side never showed up," he said. "There was no judgment on the merits of the case. There's no judgment saying one side's right and one side's wrong." He added that it's nearly impossible to collect from companies like this, which often go underground, file for bankruptcy and reincorporate under a new name.