When Customer Reviews Are Defamatory
By Tom Ryan
Online customer reviews are proving particularly popular with consumers.
But one website that has particularly benefited from the practice, TripAdvisor,
is facing possible legal action over claims that its reviews are defamatory.
a new service that helps companies manage online reputations, told Caterer
and Hotelkeeper magazine that 105 out of 120 hotels and restaurants it
has contacted in both the U.S. and U.K. indicated they would be interested
in having their cases taken to TripAdvisor. Overall, 420 hotels and restaurants
have showed interest in being protected by KwikChex.com.
Chris Emmins told Caterer and Hotelkeeper said
that his company was prepared to launch a ‘group defamation action’ against
TripAdvisor unless the website took down reviews that were proven to be false,
defamatory or malicious. Grievances cited range from the appearance of reviews
that have been falsified by competitors or individuals, to unverified claims
of food poisoning, and unsubstantiated claims of theft or racism. Mr. Emmins
said his company’s research suggests that 60 percent or more of online
accusations about food poisoning are probably false.
“I support customer feedback,” Mr. Emmins told London’s Daily
it is bad for consumers if they just don’t know what to trust.”
claims to be the world’s biggest travel site, with more than 35 million reviews,
all written by consumers. Third-party sites also use TripAdvisor content.
Atkinson, from TravelSupermarket, a price-comparison site which carries TripAdvisor
content, told the Telegraph, “We believe that customers
want more information than that provided by the hotel or the travel company,
which understandably wants to present their businesses in the best possible
light. But I would always caution consumers that people are always more likely
to post a negative review than a positive review on these types of websites.
That’s just human nature. Consumers need to read between the lines when they
read these reviews.”
TripAdvisor does include disclaimers for some reviews
it believes may be fake.
According to Channel Advisor’s latest Consumer Shopping
Habits Survey, 92 percent of consumers read online product reviews and, of
those, 83 percent are influenced by them.
Discussion Questions: What should retailers do about alleged defamatory
or fake online customer reviews on their websites? To what extent, if any,
does increased monitoring dilute the value of online reviews to customers?
reputation firm launches ‘defamation action’ against TripAdvisor – Caterer
- TripAdvisor faces legal action from upset hoteliers – Daily Telegraph
- The persuasive power of product reviews – bizreport.com