The owner of one of the UK's most remote bed and breakfast businesses is urging all hospitality operators who have suffered as the result of malicious reviews posted on TripAdvisor to sue the online review site in the small claims court.
Richard Gollin, owner of the six-bedroom Baile-na-Cille bed and breakfast on the Isle of Lewis, off the west coast of Scotland, spoke to Caterer and Hotelkeeper after TripAdvisor admitted that it was liable to being challenged in the British courts. The American company had previously claimed that as it is based in Massachusetts, it was outside the jurisdiction of the UK legal system.
Gollin is pursuing TripAdvisor through the small claims court after a handful of reviews about his business, which he describes as "fake or malicious", appeared on the review site, resulting in a loss of around £2,000 following cancelled bookings.
However, TripAdvisor have won the right for the case to be heard at a higher court - a decision which Gollin is now appealing against.
"This is a completely straightforward small claims, but TripAdvisor are now trying to complicate the matter," said Gollin. "However what we have already achieved is the recognition that TripAdvisor can appear before a British court.
"Now I'm hoping that all owners of hotels, guests houses, bed and breakfasts and restaurants which have suffered as the result of lies being told on TripAdvisor - which TripAdvisor then refuse to remove - will take the company to the small claims court.
"I have received more than 500 emails from businesses who have endured horrendous lies being told about them and TripAdvisor doing nothing to remove the lies from their website. The only way we may be able to get TripAdvisor to change is by taking action through the courts."
Gollin's appeal against TripAdvisor's right to hear the matter at a higher court is due to be heard in Stornoway next month.
Spokesperson for TripAdvisor, Emma Shaw, said that she could not comment "on the specifics of threatened or pending litigation." However, she went on to say that it is TripAdvisor's top priority to ensure the content featured on its site is authentic. "We dedicate significant time and resources to that end, including a host of more than 25 sophisticated filters, a team of detectives, and our community of over 60 million users who help us police reviews.
"If an owner feels they've been subjected to an unfair review, we urge them to contact us immediately. They can report the review through the site or, if they are unsure about how to do this or have any other queries, they can call our dedicated customer care line. Every single report of suspicious content undergoes a detailed investigation by our content integrity specialists, and if a review is found to be in breach of our guidelines, it will absolutely be removed from the site.
* The current fee for claiming up to £1,000 in damages at a small claims court is £70, risisng to £120 for a claim of between £3,000 and £5,000.
By Janet Harmer
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