tripadvisor action
1491 days ago
 

Legal case against TripAdvisor intensifies, comment posters also in spotlight

The threatened legal action against TripAdvisor has stepped up a gear with details emerging on strategy and a threat to also pursue those behind alleged defamatory comments.

tripadvisor action

The reputation management company behind the planned action, UK-based Kwikchex, says the number of enquiries from hotels that consider some comments made on TripAdvisor about their properties are defamatory is “escalating and, more importantly, so does the severity”.

Kwikchex CEO Chris Emmins has not disclosed how many other properties have joined a scheme to take on TripAdvisor (last confirmed was over 300) but says the company is to focus on the most damaging incidents, “because we already know there are thousands of potential cases and we will keep getting them”.

“The reason for the focus on content is that much of the media coverage refers to ‘bad reviews’. What we want to demonstrate is that it is much more serious than that.”

Emmins says the possible action – potentially both in the US and the UK, if TripAdvisor does not respond or deal with its demands appropriately – is “nothing to do with removing or suppressing ‘bad reviews’”.

“This action specifically addresses malicious, untrue and grossly misrepresented comments made about reputable businesses on the TripAdvisor website. It deals with the role that TripAdvisor plays and the ways that maligned businesses can defend themselves.”

TripAdvisor is understood to be receiving the first round of documentation later this week. The user review giant has maintained its silence throughout the issue so far, saying it will not comment on “threatened or pending litigation”.

Kwikchex has also this week moved to hit back at speculation the company is carrying out the legal threat as a publicity stunt.

“Numerous attempts to correct the distortions and defamatory comments using the procedures suggested by TripAdvisor have failed and individual actions are very costly for businesses that are claiming defamation, so a group action has in effect become a necessity.”

The alleged cases of defamation are now to be grouped into three distinct areas:

  1. Properties featured in email correspondence from TripAdvisor to members.
  2. Properties singled out on the main TripAdvisor site.
  3. Properties accused of racism, theft, assault and other criminal activity.

But in an interesting twist this week, Kwikchex says it will also go after those that left the alleged defamatory comments in the first place if TripAdvisor does not act on its demands.

Emmins claims there is “plenty of legal precedent in this now, particularly in the US” and a number of incidents could be put in front of courts to force disclosure.

He adds:

“Unless there is swift improvement in these severe categories, there are many posters who are about to find themselves being tracked down and asked to substantiate their allegations in court.”

Kwikchex says it is now unlikely that it will throw the entire list of aggrieved properties at TripAdvisor in one go, preferring to “take a few from each category [areas 1 to 3 outlined above] so that TA can fully evaluate what has been going on rather than drown them in  numbers at this stage”.

 
 
Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.

He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.

 

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  1. Paul

    I recently received negative review from someone who was never a guest of my tour service. TA will not respond to me and the poster will not respond to my request that they take down the post. It may very well be posted by a competitor, but I have no way to know. What I do know is that they never used my service and their posting is very damaging to my small business. Is there anyone or group in the US that is dealing with TS on our behalf? Seems to me that if we can find out who posts negative reviews who have never had contact with the business in question that is slander and cause for legal action.

     
  2. Barry Gregory

    @Suzi – you are missing the whole point. I come from both a customers point of view as well as that of a business owner of a hotel. I travel alot and leave legitimate reviews on TA. That said, TripAdvisor barely monitors and or cares about what reviews ‘guests’ write on different hotels and restaurants. I am all for free speech and leaving negative responses if that is what a guest truly felt. However what happens when you receive negative, deceitful and defamtive reviews on TA – are you supposed to just sit there as a business owner and say: ‘Oh well.’ No – this sort of thing ruins word of mouth business for small business owners such as myself that offer a service to the community. For example, we received a complaint from a ‘guest’ who actually turned out to be an angry resident (not even in our building and certainly not one of our guests) across the road. They left a TA review saying how bad the rooms were and how horrible our service was – how is this freedom of speech when the guest has never experienced our product at all? I have tried on multiple occasions to contact TA to remove and or post an informative manager response to the review to no avail.

    Suzi, I appreciate your input, however it seems that you are not looking out for small businesses such as mine who live off word of mouth business.

     
    • kell

      Folks are well aware of trip advisor and they are also aware of how damaging they can be without even giving their true contact details, they can sign up as 20 different people if they want. which has happened to me , they even had the cheek to tell me this is what they would do…all because a discount was not granted when paying their bill. one negative comment was left saying they had been in my restaurant in Feb 2012 when we have been closed for a full refit since oct 2011 and not due to open til April 2012. I cannot in any way rectify this comment with TA and yes I am supposed to accept this.

       
  3. TripAdvisor defamation pact widens to include attractions and rentals | Tnooz

    [...] Last week Emmins revealed going after the sources of allegedly defamatory comments would become part of the wider action, claiming there is “plenty of legal precedent in this now, particularly in the US” and a number of incidents could be put in front of courts to force disclosure. [...]

     
  4. Control Or Ownership? Either Way, The Customer Has It (Or Both)! | Business Computing World

    [...] that over 400 hotel and restaurant businesses in the UK and US are exploring the possibility of joining a ‘group defamation’ action against TripAdvisor, in response to what the firms complain are ‘false’ and ‘unfair’ reviews being posted on [...]

     
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    [...] that over 400 hotel and restaurant businesses in the UK and US are exploring the possibility of joining a ‘group defamation’ action against TripAdvisor, in response to what the firms complain are ‘false’ and ‘unfair’ reviews [...]

     
  6. Robert

    The commercial single event review that TripAdvisor relies on is always going to be prone to this kind of abuse. http://www.offexploring.com with it’s emphasis on in depth comment and ownership of the ‘journal’ and the whole experience, by users will always be much more valuable and visibly more authoritative.

    The industry needs to deal with or create some notion of ‘reputation’ [of the review or reviewer]

    Robert Campbell
    Director Off Exploring Ltd.

     
  7. Nick

    A very contentious issue indeed. I’ve written about it before in defence of tripadvisor. Fair enough, it’s easy for negative and unsubstantiated reviews to be posted on tripadvisor. I had something similar happen on our company’s Facebook page – accusing us of being racist and prejudiced for supporting travel to Dubai. A very unsubstantiated remark.

    Something like this is better overcome by responding to it, rather than blocking posts like that from being published. In this instance I responded at length to the posts this person published about us, explaining our position as a travel provider and refuting his claims with evidence to the contrary. This is the way you deal with “untrue” reviews, not by blocking people from publishing them.

    Tripadvisor is an open forum in which everyone should be allowed to give their opinion – this is the nature of a forum or community like this. Granted though, if it’s true that Tripadvisor don’t let the hotel respond to the racism claim – I think that goes completely against the ethos behind this fantastic social review platform.

     
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  9. Daniele Beccari

    It is clear that TripAdvisor today has the power to influence positively or negative a property business, and understandable that hotels require some measures to ensure control in case of untrue reviews.

    Anonymous profiles are in fact one of the reasons of Tripadvisor success since day 1. Travellers have had no hesitation in posting reviews, even negative, therefore avoiding being identified by hotels in their future stays. I think this was really critical. Tripadvisor would not have worked if it had tried to use real identities like Facebook.

    The unfortunate consequence is that it’s trivial for anyone to post fake comments (positive or negative).

    The recent sync up with the Facebook social graph could now be changing this – making it both possible to connect with real friends on TA and also knowing real identities, therefore limiting anonymous fake reviews.

     
  10. Top Tnooz this week - Instantly Google, beating bad reviews, candle blowing | Tnooz

    [...] Legal case against TripAdvisor intensifies, comment posters also in spotlight [...]

     
  11. Hal Peat

    “…for some ridiculous unforseen reason the courts force TripAdvisor to hand over user identities.” If not, then TA will have to take the heat as the sole party liable for such comments. Presumably as you see it also, I’m not sure that first amendment has anything much to do with it – in a private venue or space real or virtual, you get to set the limits of what speech is allowed, therefore you become liable for what you decide to allow. Plus, there are more possible lines to your dialog there – i.e., “but I can substantiate the effect on my guest numbers that might be tied to your online stream of comments at the time…and it’s had an ongoing damaging effect. Perception is everything” etc. They will settle.

     
  12. ComputerAddict

    Aside from the obvious Section 230 provisions that protect TripAdvisor from comments made users, and the obvious 1st amendment claims that allow for ANONYMOUS free speech…. If for some ridiculous unforseen reason the courts force TripAdvisor to hand over user identities I would love to see the testimony of these users in court. “No sir, on January 21st, 2002 you said that my hotel was crappy, Please substantiate that claim.”… “It was my opinion at that time.” “Thank you, you may step down”… repeat 2000 times.

     
  13. Hal Peat

    @Happy Hotelier – an interesting point you make there. I think at least in terms of legal niceties, the definition of who owns what and who is legally answerable for what will only emerge in the event that Kwikchex moves into actual litigation. At that point they’ll have to determine which entities/individuals can be pursued, and that in turn depends on state law if Tripadvisor is based in the U.S. and/or an American business entity. Meaning, they could possibly choose to name a large number of potential defendants in their initial complaint – ranging from Tripadvisor, any underlying corporations, and any specific [sic] guests they decide to cite. Then some of those will get tossed out by a judge anyway as inadmissible for this reason or that. Of course, this whole discussion needs to take note of the fact that all parties will make at least a token attempt to settle out of court.

     
  14. Suzi

    I have to ask who determines that a review is defamatory or simply a negative one? In many cases I am sure an owner who did not like a review or who “encourages” guests to leave a positive review that would be best described as a fairytale would see any honest but negative review as defamatory
    I have personally seen property owners responses to negative reviews that are definitely untrue and grossly misrepresented.
    Also who also determines who is a reputable businesses and who is not?
    I think the Trip Advisor website is simply a travel tool for travellers to use – it enables us to say how it is without marketing spin but it is still always buyer beware and do your research.

     
  15. Happy Hotelier

    Thank you Kevin for covering this.

    What keeps coming to my mind is: “Who owns the review?” and what are the legal niceties and responsibilities of such ownership.

    TA claims ownership.

    In my mind the individual reviewer keeps popping up as the “owner”

    I believe a clear cut answer to the question is needed.

     
  16. Suzi

    This is a really sad day for freedom of speech and the consumer having rights too. Of course it is only the bad operators who win

     
    • Chris Emmins

      “This is a really sad day for freedom of speech and the consumer having rights too. Of course it is only the bad operators who win”

      You couldn’t be more wrong Suzi – we are supporting freedom of speech and encouraging honest feedback and transparency. What we are opposed to are malicious lies aimed at hurting good businesses and good people – and we are challenging companies that enable that to happen – and to therefore also contribute to misleading consumers. As to ‘bad operators’, we have already emphasised that the businesses contacting us have good reputations. One of the case studies we published as an example this week was a hotel that has a 97% rating on TA. One poster though, who was not even a customer,without any cause has accused them of racism and advised all ‘ethnics’ to stay away. It has been reported to the police. TripAdvisor refused to remove it TripAdvisor did not allow the owners to publish a response. This is not freedom of speech, this is serious libel – and TA by their actions are enabling it and also denying even the right of reply, which is truly an attack on freedom of speech.

       
      • Suzi

        Chris Emmins – how can you say that you are supporting freedom of speech and encouraging honest feedback and transparency – pleeease. If you are threatening to sue people who give a negative review – the true travellers willing to give a true review especially when it is not flattering will diminish significantly.
        For far too long we have put up with dishonest travel brochures and even bold face lies on Trip Advisor from owners who are responding to true but negative reviews. What do you mean they are denied the right of reply? They always have the opportunity after a review – it is the person who has left the review that does not get the opportunity to respond to at times what is the owners outrageous reply.
        For the good companies – the positive reviews will always out way the negative reviews and TA members are pretty savvy at working out the false ones. I have also found Trip Advisor very good at removing fake ones – I report them all the time.
        I love Trip Adviser – it means that I have had some fantastic holidays and found some great accommodation options that I would never have found if I relied on my local travel agents. All I can say is shame on you – this is our litigious world driven by lawyers gone far too far.
        Suzi

         
        • Kevin May

          Kevin May

          @suzi – for clarification purposes, Kwikchex has consistently said the proposed legal action is to challenge defamatory reviews, not negative ones.

          As per the story above, a quote from Emmins:

          “This action specifically addresses malicious, untrue and grossly misrepresented comments made about reputable businesses on the TripAdvisor website. It deals with the role that TripAdvisor plays and the ways that maligned businesses can defend themselves.”

           
      • Cindi wilson

        Yes well, this nonsense has to be exposed for the vacuous bunch of boloney is it. I am sure Chris Emmins is well aware that opinion is protected speech in the US. Now, on Emmins web site it is claimed that police were very concerned by the accusation of racism made by one prospective customer, but Emmins offers no citation as to the source of this opinion. I will ask Chris Emmins to furnish the name of the police representative who stated this. Who was it, Chris. Give us a name, job title and location we can verify.

        As it happens, the Guardian managed to track down the individual who made the claim of racism, with no apparent difficulty. Why couldn’t you Chris – at least to verify this person’s disposition. Now you claim that the opinion of the would-be customer is libel. Can you cite the statute that is placeable here

         
 
 

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