PETALING JAYA: Restaurants providing free Wi-Fi were caught by surprise when told of the amendment to the Evidence Act 1950 regarding their liability for the actions of those using the services they provide.
Under Section 114A, the network owner is presumed to be the person who published or re-published any publication orginating from the network unless proved otherwise.
Akmal Nassir, owner and operator of Upstairs Cafe in Subang Jaya, responded with shock when told of the move.
"When did this happen? How did they do this?" he asked.
He said his outlet had been providing free Wi-Fi as an added value service for customers for the past two years and that "almost every restaurant now provides free Wi-Fi".
Akmal said he might have to take extra precautions to protect himself for being held accountable for the actions of his customers.
"I would have to keep a record of their personal info and usage time manually. I can't take it down. I have to keep it up," he said.
He said restaurant owners would not want to further impede their customers from getting online.
Zhou Chern, manager at a restaurant in Petaling, said the amendment should be repealed.
"It doesn't sound fair. We are just providing our customers a service," he said.
"It is ridiculous I am responsible for what other people do."
He felt many restaurants would stop providing free Wi-Fi due to the amendment to the Act and he might suggest to restaurant owners that the free service would be cut off although it might drive customers away.
"We would lose a lot of customers. People come here and have out-of-office meetings. We'll lose a lot of business, especially with students."
He thought it unfair the law passed without the knowledge of stakeholders such as himself.
"Something this huge, if more people knew, they would complain."
One person who did know of the move was Ramesh Vadiveloo, manager of Frontera Restaurant in Jaya One. "I saw something about it on Facebook.
"It's like if a crime occurs in a house, the owner is not involved, but he is still punished."
He said they would still continue to provide free Wi-Fi to customers regardless of the repurcussions.
"We'd leave it up and fight it. What's the worse that could happen? Many more would be hauled to court as well."
However, he may attempt to discourage irresponsible use of the Wi-Fi by customers. "I might put up a board the same way bars put up signs saying 'Do not bring drugs on these premises'.
"We will inform users and hope that it discourages them. What else can we do? Wi-Fi is like music. We can operate without it, but who wants that?"