First things first: any information offered on this website is offered on an 'as is' basis and no warranties nor advice can be offered nor is any responsibility taken for any loss etc. as a result of reading this information. Secondly, it is important to note that the information contained here ONLY applies to UK based businesses as it's a UK law that we refer to.
For many years, hoteliers and restaurateurs have been subject to 'review sites' and whilst these can be a good thing, sadly there is little redress for business owners who fall foul of malicious or untrue 'reviews'. The standard reply from the websites is usually that it "complies with their guidelines" or some such reason and that the review will remain published.
In 2013, UK law changed to allow business owners and individuals the opportunity to challenge defamatory comments made online, easily, simply and without any expense; this law is known as The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013 and applies to websites hosted anywhere on the planet provided that the complainant is UK based.
It's important to note that the law applies only to defamatory comments and not judgements that you may disagree with. For example, a review that said "I found the chair too hard" would unlikely be covered by the act but a review that said "This is the worst restaurant in the world, I found the chair too hard" would be. That said though, the law can be applied if the complainant believes the statements are—
So, lets learn a bit more about the law and how to use it:
The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013 is a powerful piece of legislation. For those who are interested in reading it in full, it can be found here.
The law requires a number of things. Firstly, as was said above, the business must be based in the UK the complainant must believe that the statements are—
With this in mind, we move on to how to use the regulations to 'fight back':
It's a relatively simple process to serve the required notice on a website operator that you believe are hosting defamatory comments. You have to serve notice on the company in question and that notice has to contain specific pieces of information. It's worth noting, however, that there is little to no point in serving notice via the online 'contact us'/'feedback' or 'report a review' forms as these tend to be responded to in a generic format by customer care operatives with scant knowledge of UK law (we expand on this further in the 'Info' section below).
a notice of complaint must—
So, to put this into reality, a typical notice of complaint would look like this:
Once this notice has been deemed to have been served, the website operators have 48 hours to either provide you with the name and address of the person who wrote the defamatory content or remove it.
It really is as simple as that.
As we said above, there's little point in using the 'contact us' forms on websites so you're better off writing by post.
In the case of TripAdvisor, they are claiming that they have "no offices outside of the USA" and are taking the line that all enquiries must be sent to their offices in Massachusetts.
Rest assured, they are equally obliged to act in accordance with the law regardless of where you have to write to (although of course, it's not quite as convenient but with 'International Signed For' costing around £2.50 it's straightforward enough to do).
To this end, you should therefore address all letters to:
400 1st Avenue
As always, if you're in any doubt, seek professional legal advice and don't forget that legal advice is often available free of charge if you have legal insurance or via trade bodies such as the ALMR/BHA.