A renowned restaurant in Scotland is considering taking legal action against TripAdvisor after it failed in a bid to have a "defamatory" review removed from the site.
A user of the TripAdvisor website claimed that they had seen staff at the Cock and Bull, a Michelin pub guide-listed restaurant in Balmedie in Aberdeenshire, fill a bottle of "designer water" from a tap and serve it to a customer.
The restaurant strongly refutes the claim, made in December last year. It has made repeated attempts to have the review removed, using the owners' forum on the website and various other means, without success.
But it was in helping another Aberdeen hotelier to get a malicious review removed that the pub's directors decided that they may need to take further action.
"It has preyed on our mind for six months. We don't have a tap in the bar that is visible to the restaurant. It is simply not possible, apart from the fact that it is something we would never practise," director Mandy Davidson told Caterersearch.com. "We contacted a London solicitors before about this. We had always been weighing up our options and deciding whether or not to go ahead with it. But after helping out with this other review, I felt compelled to do something about it."
"TripAdvisor obviously doesn't have the manpower to read every review to make sure it doesn't breach their guidelines. They are basically leaving it up to the business holder to do due diligence on it themselves and if you don't have the time and the resources to monitor that website, a bad review that breaches guidelines could be up there for weeks, doing untold damage to your business.
"Their defence is they have a management response utility whereby you can respond to a review. However, a negative review can be published within a day but your response can take up to two weeks to be published. It just doesn't work," she said.
Davidson said she had encountered customers who had seen the review and had thought twice about coming, but who said they were glad they had come. But she questioned how many more people the review had put off.
TripAdvisor said it could not comment on threatened or pending litigation but issued the following statement: "TripAdvisor takes its responsibility as the world's largest and most popular travel site very seriously. We have a zero tolerance policy on fraudulent reviews and have numerous methods in place to verify the legitimacy of the content on TripAdvisor. We believe the legitimacy of our more than 45 million reviews and opinions is a key reason why we enjoy tremendous user loyalty and growth - simply, if the reviews people read didn't paint an accurate picture, users would not keep coming back.
"If a hotel or restaurant feels they have been unfairly represented they have two options - they can contact the TripAdvisor Owners Centre and one of our content integrity specialists will investigate this for them. If a review is found to not meet our guidelines it will be removed from the site. All restaurants, hotels and attractions on TripAdvisor also have the right to draft a management response and publicly reply to all reviews - positive or negative. This means that owners can publicly respond to all reviews made about their property and it is something we actively encourage all owners to take advantage of - thanking the positive reviews and explaining the negative. This effectively gives business owners the last word."
By Neil Gerrard
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