The Scottish restaurant Cock & Bull is considering filing a lawsuit against TripAdvisor for failing to remove a potentially defamatory review, and has already gathered support from hotels and restaurants around the country.
The reviewer claimed to have seen the restaurant’s manager refilling designer bottles with tap water, a claim that Cock & Bull says it “completely untrue”.
“Untold damage is done from this review and so many others that are just not true. The whole industry is held over a barrel because of TripAdvisor, and it’s about time we did something about that,” said Mandy Davidson, the director of Balmedie-based Cock & Bull.
Following press reports of the potential lawsuit yesterday, Davidson said she has spent the whole morning fielding calls from restaurants and hotels around the country offering their support.
“We’ve had so many calls from others in the industry who are in the same position, and they are offering whatever help it would take to file a lawsuit, including financial,” she told BigHospitality.
“We think the whole system of TripAdvisor is flawed, the guidelines that are supposed to control what is posted simply don’t work and it means that any number of totally unsubstantiated comments can be posted and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“We don’t even have a tap in view of our restaurant and bar, so how the reviewer saw what he claims is just beyond me. We know it’s not true, but as far as TripAdvisor are concerned, someone’s seen it so it must be true.”
Cock & Bull said it tried to follow TripAdvisor’s process to have the comment removed, but has had no success over the past six months. It then also enlisted the help of KwikChex, an online reputation management company, but was still unsuccessful.
“We want to take this further now, because we’ve just not received any response. We’re still balancing everything out to decide whether to proceed with a lawsuit,” she said.
TripAdvisor said it could not comment on either threatened or pending litigation, but added that "we have a zero tolerance policy on fraudulent reviews and have numerous methods in place to verify the legitimacy of the content on TripAdvisor.
"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," said TripAdvisor's Emma O’Boyle.
"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.