Legal threat against TripAdvisor includes 120 hotels and counting

The company representing over a hundred hoteliers threatening legal action against TripAdvisor is preparing for a transatlantic assault on the user review giant.

KwikChex, a UK-based hotel reputation management company, says over 120 hotels – mostly from the UK and US – have so far agreed to participate in the programme.

Co-founder of KwiChex, Chris Emmins, claims the number of hotels is increasing by the hour after announcing earlier today that it is considering legal action against Expedia-owned TripAdvisor if certain demands are not met.

The decision to go public with a threat follows a “frustrating” period for KwikChex when trying to deal with TripAdvisor over information contained in reviews for some of its hotel clients.

Many hoteliers, despite TripAdvisor’s policy of allowing a hotel the right to reply, are angry as they believe that comments in reviews are untrue and damaging to their business, or “legally unsubstantiated”.

Emmins says the hotels KwikChex is representing are being “seriously defamed” by comments ranging from food poisoning to accusations of assault by members of staff.

KwixChex is preparing to send TripAdvisor a dossier containing details of such alleged defamation and is demanding that it remove the comments or face a trip to the courts, possibly in the form of a class action – a process it is willing to front on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Emmins says it is likely that if TripAdvisor fails to respond positively to the requests of its clients then the first case would begin in a US court.

A TripAdvisor official says:

“We do not comment on either threatened or pending litigation.”

Emmins has a string of additional complaints against TripAdvisor which may be incorporated into the potential legal action.

These include demanding to see the algorithm behind the rating system for hotels when displayed as an overall rank within a city as well the strategy behind an email marketing campaign.

Emmins says clients are concerned about a bulletin titled Hotel Horror Stories which reproduces negative reviews of hotels and circulates to TripAdvisor members.

tripadvisor action

Emmins accuses TripAdvisor of “manipulating data for its own purposes” and the company is now “hyped up by its own conceit”.

The threatened legal action is still a long way from hitting the courts (as reported elsewhere today) but the strategy to go after the company for directly publishing defamatory statements rather than criticising the company for supposedly allowing bogus reviews is a new tact.

Emmins says that search giant Google has cooperated “very well” in the past when KwixChex has asked to correct errors in keyword advertising campaigns and elsewhere in the Google system, a solid understanding he hopes will be replicated at TripAdvisor in the coming weeks and months.

Only hoteliers on the wider KwikChex representation system will be included in the programme, Emmins confirms.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Rosemary BK

    I have noticed that Trip Advisor has been trying to make us join their Business Listing. If you do not entertain their proposal, be rest assured that a couple of bad reviews come up on your property at TA. Hotel properties that have taken their business listing are always rated the top 10 hotels in the location. And they don’t seem to get any bad reviews, while we have heard our guests complaining about those properties. Okay, granted that they don’t bother to write it on TA, or is is that once you have paid them for Business Listing, there is some kind of immunity?

  2. Rui Lopes

    Dear Sirs
    My business is listed on tripadvisor and some people who had never been our clients had posted some bad reviews about us. Tripadvisor refuses to erase these reviews and looks like nothing can be done about this. In the meanwhile tripadvisor is ruining my reputation. Is there justice is this world?
    We know you had the same problem and if you can tell us if you could do anything against tripadvisor on this matter we would appreciate it.
    Waiting for your response.
    My email is:
    Best regards,
    Rui Lopes

  3. Paul

    TA likes negative reviews because bad reviews force owners to encourage customers to visit TA in order to leave an honest (usually good) review.

    Therefore, bad reviews increase traffic to TA; the increased traffic is generated by worried owners; increased traffic means TA can sell more advertising space at a higher premium.

    Its actually a stroke of genius. Dirty, but genius.

    *Cue Monty Python impersonation* …… Trip Advisor – you’re a very naughty boy.

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  5. Rahul Dev

    Trip Advisor is abusing the whole system of Reviewing on websites.They have no system of checking the validity of the stay of a guest reviewer. Anyone can go on the website and write anything about hotels even though its completly false. In a recent incedent – a guest was tresspassed from our hotel and facing several police charges. After being tresspassed they went and wrote a flase negative review about our hotel for which we are facing some serious ramification in our business. I personaly tried ringing them over the phone & spoke to Mr David Morris, Group Corporate Counsel in Trip Advisor. He was very unwelcoming and did want to talk over the phone. I have scanned & forwarded the police complaint letter to Trip Advisor requesting them to remove the false review.But they did nothing. Also our competitors have been putting flase negative reviews against our hotel after we had a change of management and operating under new Management/Ownership. Inspite of providing all the details to Trip Advisor through owners center & separtely by email as well, they did nothing to remove those false reviews. We need to all get together and take some serious action against this website & stop it from abusing the whole system and causing further damage to the hospitality industry.

  6. Debbie

    I have a guest house in the lake district, and last year we had a unfortunate incident with a guest, which was wholly our fault – we rectified this, the guest stayed on for three days and left happy or so I thought. A year later a review has appeared detailine their stay, it would be hard to reconcile theri vile comments with our lovely place, all other feedback is good, excellent in fact, and this stands out like a sore thumb. I have challenged it with Trip advisor, and they will not remove it because it does not breach their guidelines. I am speechless that we are so vulnrable, that someone can just go and write what they like and it does not matter if its true or not – as much as all our other feedback is good, I know myself that I read reviews and if there is a bad one think there is no smoke without fire. Its damaging, defamatory and libelous – and I am not quite sure where to go from here – I have read the fair comment statement someone used earlier, and this is so far removed from fair comment, its a spiteful nasty rant, that paints a awful picture of our lovely place – any ideas?

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  10. Matt

    This is ridiculous…freedom of speech? The hotels are just ticked that they have a bad reputation…well maybe if they would up their services/amenities or actually reply (seeing as how hotels can def. reply to TripAdvisor) they wouldn’t get bad reviews. Every hotel has bad reviews….

    TripAdvisor’s reviews of my Holiday Inn are great and we’re highly rated with no majorly damaging reviews…so it’s just the hotel and their staff that determine the rating and comments!

    • Chris Emmins

      Matt – Please read my post above.AS I have already said, the hotels that are contacting KwikChex all have positive ratings. One has a 99% rating – but has absolute proof that the single ‘terrible’ review is a lie – and quite rightly he wants it removed. But again as I have already said, the critical part of this action is that TA have interfered with the process of opinion by adding derogatory comments of their own, which are unjustifiable even by their own members’ ratings. The publicity surrounding the action is also unearthing some very unhealthy cases. Let me stress once again – honest opinion and fair comments from genuine customers whether positive or negative are a great thing. Lies, malice, attempted extortion and anti-competitive behaviour hiding behind anonymity on a website as influential as TA are on the other hand an abomination. No person making comments that fall in the former category has anything to be concerned about. Freedom of speech will thankfully still rule. Those that seek to damage the reputation of good businesses, though should start worrying – because the second part of the action will be focused on gaining disclosure of the identity of the rogues that perpetrate these heinous actions.

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  13. Dante DiMarchese

    If you look on the TripAdvisor website, the hotels featured in that email were fairly consistently trashed by a large number of credible reviewers. These hotel owners would be better off refocusing their efforts on improving their customers’ experience, rather than wasting time and money trying to stifle the free expression of opinions online by hiring a “reputation manager”. The best way to protect your reputation is to provide excellent service – period. If they disagree with a review, they can always respond to it. What a bunch of whiners.

    • Chris Emmins

      1 – Several of those featured had a positive ‘rating’ by TripAdvisor members – some in the past have had similar treatment even with a +80% rating. 2- If TA wish to comply and be protected by the current laws concerning user generated comment, they cannot carry out proacive activities of this type – as Bill Hart, an attorney with the Manhattan firm Proskauer who specializes in technology issues, said situations similar to the “Hotel Horror” email could be in a “gray area” of the law. In general, sites cannot go beyond publishing user statements without giving up their immunity, he said. If they make conclusions from the reviews, it could be problematic.3 – what makes the reviewers credible? You cannot be sure if they were even genuine customers, whether the reviews are good or bad. 4 – Some other reputable businesses have had good reviews removed by TA and their ranking dropped even though they offered proof that they were from genuine customers. And finally – would you feel the same way if for example, a masked man was to follow you down the street saying you were a criminal or was to hang about outside your business premises telling people not to use your services? I think you probably might object – but in some cases, the exact equivalent has happened to perfectly reputable and excellent businesses. That’s a truer perspective and that’s why change is needed.

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    • James

      How do you figure that all human have rules and regulations to follow BUT a corporation like TripAdvisor does not have any. If this is not illigal or bully, then what is it? How hard is it to bring it down ligally and put them in rules and regulations bind?
      Lot can be achieved by contacting currently existing locallly, nationally and internationally hotel associations. Such as Aahoa and many other.(American Asian hotel owners association)

  16. e-Philippines Adventure Travel agency

    I think the best option would be for TripAdvisor to become user- managed, similar to wikipedia. For a website that focuses on opinions and comments that holds a lot of influence, it’s scary to have a company control it.

  17. Stuart

    Do TA pre moderate their reviews or do they go live without a looksee?

  18. Richard Hamer

    Having real trouble with TripAdvisor and Facebook. Especially the former that holds a really offensive review – suspected to be by a rival business – accusing all kinds of things.

  19. Dan Yates

    Open forums are always vulnerable to abuse, but the alternative to a ‘notice and removal’ policy – moderation in advance – has legal implications and is likely to produce far fewer reviews. Then you run into sample-size issues.

    What’s important is classifying a dodgy review accurately and minimising the time it stays live. Some of the abuse is easy to spot – for example, campsite owners on sometimes submit reviews from their own account – but rooting out the bad ones arguably needs to be a crowdsourced activity (notice and removal). Otherwise you risk throwing the baby out with the bath water by chucking out lots of genuine negative reviews – let’s face it, TA won’t have many requests to remove positive comment.

    We’ve recently implemented a new process on where owners can opt in for alerts of any new review, which is held in abeyance for 48 hours before going live. Owners can use our dispute function to remove the review from the site and request an investigation. We’ve had positive feedback so far and this seems to have addressed many of the concerns owners have about review systems.

    The number of TA reviews for many properties is so large now that maybe we should be focusing on the aggregate rating instead – not something that properties can change overnight or by getting a review removed. The interesting point for me is the self-fulfilling effect of reaching the top or bottom of the ratings charts – can poorly-rated hotels recover? how much business is now concentrated in the top handful?

  20. Independent Inn

    The issue lies with Trip Adviser not providing the hotel equal rights to address damaging reviews. There have been many times I have read where manager’s statements have not been posted for any number of reasons. If the reviewer posted harmful statements about the business, or it’s staff it seems that the manager should be allowed to reply with how the guest treated the staff or the property, but Trip Adviser calls that personal attacks! What’s the difference?

    What I have been equally concerned with are the false reviews written after a clear threat by the guest for not meeting their outrageous requests including but not limited to price demands or demands of extras not provided by the entity. But the worst being a demand AFTER a stay for a full refund. If you were not happy with the the accommodations the time to spout your complaint is when the issue happened not after. When many manager statements are posted, most reflect the fact they were not made aware of the situation until departure or after.

  21. Chris Emmins

    Just so we are clear on this – the principle that is driving this action is that TA have gone far beyond User Generated Comment. As with the example of the email published on this site, they have singled out decent businesses and contrary to the true evidence that the hotel has good standards, have portrayed them in a misleading light. This has been done extensively and in several different ways. They have also not acted when offered evidence that a review is suspect. This is unacceptable ethically and legally. What is required now is corrective action to restore trust – and almost certainly in some of the worst cases, compensation

    • Andrew

      Chris you should be congratulated for all your hard work your company as done to create fare play and common sense

  22. cristian martin us

    Trip Advisor should have much more reinforced policy about checking the validity of the comments posted. Nowadays not only hoteliers write their own reviews but they also write bad reviews about their competition…

  23. Redgsnodgrass

    This will go nowhere…free speech and inability to monitor this make it an impossibility to regulate. Hey hotels how about provide a positive experience to guests and employees and watch the good far outweigh the one offs.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @redgsnodgrass – valid point, but if there is clear defamation against a hotel and even right of reply does not have any impact, what should a hotel do?

      • James Kennedy

        In my experience, where there is a clear defamatory statement which appears to violate Tripadvisor’s own guidelines ( reporting it to them usually results in the post being removed. In particular where you can prove that the comments are not Family Friendly or indeed have no relevance to other travellers. I think more hotels should take the time to understand Tripadvisor rather than standing on the sidelines complaining about it.

        • David Whitley

          Under British defamation law (I don’t know about US), the ‘fair comment’ defence is the relevant one here.

          However, if it’s not fair comment and what the user has posted is defamatory, then it is defamatory the moment it is published. Offers of rights of reply and taking it down on request are irrelevent – the hotel has a right to sue for libel (and, if the comment is clearly defamatory, should have an open-and-shut case).

          That, in a nutshell, is the fundamental flaw with the unmoderated UGC model, whether it’s blog comments, review site posts or open forums. Sooner or later, someone will decide that enough is enough and take the UGC site for an awful lot of money. And, frankly, I’d argue that’s a good thing.

        • Rahul

          Genuinely, no hotel will try to give a bad experience to any of its clients. Because the customers are the one who help us pay the bill & run the hotel.
          We had an incident where the guests were escorted out of our premises by cops due to possession of illegal substances and abusive behavior towards our female staff. The guests have gone and written a completely false and appalling review on Trip advisor against our hotel.
          I have scanned & emailed the copy of the police charges to Trip Advisor. But still they never removed the false reviews from the websites.

          Its easy to say but comes hard when it actually happens to your own property. Trip advisor is abusing the whole system of reviewing on websites.

        • Deborah Scarborough

          Not true. They don’t take illegal declarations off. We were accused of something illegal which was either the wrong restaurant or perhaps an ex-employee trying to get back at management. Trip Advisor will not even reply to our requests to have it taken off. It is never pleasant to read negative things about my own business, but I try to take it in stride and just to the best job possible and to improve every day, which I would always do without Trip Advisor. After the negative review that accused us of illegal action, our number definitely dropped. How is it okay for someone to write whatever they want and let it affect my business? Even though we are number one in our small town, I wish trip advisor never existed. It is exhausting trying to keep up with all the angry people, especially in the economy which is another subject all together.

        • Dlupo

          Negative feedback is part of being in business, you cannot please all of the people all of the time try as you might – we are a small family run B&B in the lake district and in the main we get get negative feedback, room too small, parking a problem etc etc, and although there is plenty of parking, and the bedrooms are all a reasonable size it is down to interpretation, lots of people have driveways so do not like parking on road, and some people stay in purpose built hotels with big rooms, so a victorian property would appear small – all this is reasonable and acceptable feedback – and if something awful happened then they have the right to say so – but what they do not have the right to do is character assassinate businesses, nobody has that right, feedback is meant to be a reasonable assessment of your stay – not a platform to spout vile comments and hate in most cases. I was subjected to one such feedback and I was so shocked by what they wrote i threatened a private prosecution against them and it was removed, freedom of speech is our right, but it is not our right to just put whatever we like in writing and desecrate hard working people’s reputation – trip advisor have to be held accountable for what they allow to go in print – even the news papers have to ensure that what they print is the truth – i cannot see why trip advisor are exempt from this, they refused to reove the review but the person who wrote it, realised I was not going to let it lye and requested it removed – so you comment about standing on the sidelines and not understanding tripadvisor fall a bit flat

          • Dlupo

            that should read – in the main we get very little negative feedback – not sure what happened there 🙂

      • Chris Emmins (KwikChex)

        Precisely the main point Kevin – and we ARE adding to the capability of hotels and restaurants to improve standards and get recognised for it within authenticated systems

    • Angela

      Lame. Yes you.

    • Brenda

      We own a motel that we endeavour to operate with a mind to great customer service and cleanliness and value for the money. 84% of people rate our place highy or above average and we feel they write a fair review. We had one guest write a bad review due to an experience that was our fault which we apologized for and made right for the guest. We have had one review that was completely fabricated and was put up by a competitor. Tripadvisor only pulled it down because they also put corresponding wonderful review about their own place. Had they not written the other highly praiseful review, the fabricated one would have been left on our tripadvisor page. The thing is, we are totally for guests being able to write a review – that is reflecting their own opinion and experiences. We do not feel it is appropriate for tripadvisor to allow the review to include the names of hotel staff – positive or derogotory (espcially since reviewers on tripadvisor do not reveal their identities). We also feel it should be obligitory for these people to confirm that they are legitimate guests – such as a receipt produced if there is a dispute over legitimacy. A process which allows anyone to write anything they want – without validation – is defamatory.

  24. Nawar Alsaadi

    Glad to see hotel owners taking action against the abuse of tripadvisor.



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