Up to 1,000 hotel and restaurant businesses could present their grievances about what they see as unfair treatment on the reviews website TripAdvisor by the end of this week, as part of an initiative led by an online reputation management firm.
KwikChex.com co-founder Chris Emmins told Caterer that his company would launch what he termed a ‘group defamation action' against TripAdvisor, after its members in the hotel and restaurant sector highlighted that they were fed up with what they alleged were ‘unfair' or ‘false' reviews on the site.
Emmins said that having contacted 120 businesses in the sector in both the US and UK to see if they would be interested in having their cases taken to TripAdvisor, 105 said they would be. KwikChex.com is now publicising the move, in the hope of signing up 1,000 businesses by the end of this week and has been "besieged" with interest, according to the company.
However, there is a catch for interested businesses. Hotels and restaurants looking for representation must stump up a £170 membership fee.
The type of grievances they cite range from the appearance of reviews that are alleged to have been falsified by competitors or individuals, to unverified claims of food poisoning, and unsubstantiated claims of theft or racism.
"To a small business with only a few reviews, claims of food poisoning can be devastating. In every single one we have looked at - and we have looked at around 100 - there has been no report to the local health authority and we could find no evidence of food poisoning. Those sort of things shouldn't even be on TripAdvisor," Emmins said.
"You only have to look at half the hotels on the eâ'mail to see that even by TripAdvisor ratings the majority of TripAdvisor reviewers recommend them. That is completely misleading and singling out businesses," he said.
The aim of the action of is for individual businesses to have their grievances rectified by TripAdvisor, Emmins said. Although he did not rule out legal action in some cases in both the UK and US, which would be undertaken on a no-win, no-fee basis.
"We have taken legal counsel and it seems pretty strong in many of these cases that we could take a class action against them," he said.
A TripAdvisor spokeswoman said: "TripAdvisor does not comment on either threatened or pending litigation."
By Neil Gerrard
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