TripAdvisor has finally responded to owner reports of attempted “blackmail” when guests threaten to post negative and malicious reviews unless a demand for a refund, upgrade, or other request is met. They describe this as “an occasional concern” although reports of attempted blackmail are fairly common on their Owner’s forum.
TripAdvisor Blackmail on Owners Forum
They now have a way for you to report blackmail threats before a corresponding review is submitted. TripAdvsor says that immediate reporting of blackmail threats can “supplement our investigative procedure and help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site.”
Here are their procedures for registered owners to report blackmail to TripAdvisor:
- Instruct staff to share any guest blackmail threats immediately.
- Submit a potential blackmail review report as soon as possible via the Management Center as follows:
- Log in to your property Management Centre
- Select “Manage your reviews”
- Click the link under “Dispute a review”
- Complete the form and confirm that the issue “Report blackmail” is selected
- Provide the month and year of the guest’s stay, an email address and/or a name and as many details as possible about the incident.
- Retain as much documentation relating to the report as you can including emails, letters, voicemails, etc.
Any reports of experiences in using this procedure would be welcome!
TripAdvisor Liable under UK Law
Hotels, B&Bs and restaurants can now take legal action in the UK against review website TripAdvisor following a landmark victory over legal jurisdiction.
Following months of legal argument, TripAdvisor said on October 11th at Stornoway Sheriff Court that it was dropping its challenge to UK jurisdiction, conceding that it is subject to the laws of Scotland and can be taken to court in the UK.
The case was brought by a Scottish B&B owner who claimed that negative criticism posted about his business was false and should be removed by TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor had previously denied it was subject to UK law and argued it could not be sued in Britain, saying that its headquarters are in Massachusetts and therefore outside the reach of the UK legal system.
However, the B&B owner’s lawyer argued that the “harmful event” took place in Uig, on Lewis, and thus the Stornoway court had jurisdiction. In addition, he pointed out TripAdvisor had a designated office at 7 Soho Square in London, which put “the defenders in the member state.”
However, this particular case may not make it to court as the Sheriff ruled it was too complex for the Sheriff court and would have to be transferred to a higher court. This would expose the plaintiff to unlimited legal expenses.
The B&B owner pointed out to the sheriff that TripAdvisor had spent weeks trying to transfer the case to Massachusetts, and that its latest request to transfer to a higher court was a ruse to make it too expensive for him to pursue his case. Sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie said, “I do have sympathy for you” but added that the contract law involved might be too complex for his court.
Mr Gollin is now appealing to the Sheriff Principal over the decision, which could force him to drop the action due to the legal costs involved. However, it does set a precedent for other owners to challenge TripAdvisor in court outside the USA.
TripAdvisor Geography Failure
If you’re planning a trip to France using TripAdvisor (or anywhere else, for that matter) just beware – geography is clearly not their strong point.
I was browsing the department of the Sarthe in France – home to the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race each June – and I noticed that TripAdvisor had helpfully suggested some nearby “popular destinations near the Sarthe” that I presumably might want to consider visiting if I were going to the Sarthe.
TripAdvisor – Popular Places near the Sarthe
Fortunately, I know the region but just in case anyone doesn’t, here is a map of France showing where TripAdvisor’s idea of popular destinations near the Sarthe actually are (in red) and where the Sarthe is (in green).
TripAdvisor – Popular Places near the Sarthe
Thanks, TripAdvisor! But we regret to inform you that we won’t be taking up your suggestions
Dangerous TripAdvisor Reviewers to be Tagged
In a bold move to aid hotels, restaurants and bed and breakfast owners to avoid some of the worst of its members, TripAdvisor is trying to tag its most dangerous reviewers.
It is hoped that in time all of the most pompous and prolific reviewers with the most grossly exaggerated view of their own self-importance will be tagged in this way.
The scheme works by attaching a large “TripAdvisor” logo to the luggage of the unwanted guest, enabling canny owners to put up a “Fully Booked” sign as they see the offender approaching their business.
The trap is set by TripAdvisor sending out emails to its reviewers inviting them to apply for the luggage tags as a “gift” – much as police have used prize draws etc. to trap criminals in the United States. As the scheme is entirely voluntary, it is legal for TripAdvisor to tag its members in this way.
TripAdvisor also takes the gullible reviewer’s email address and home address enabling them to further punish them with spam.
Andrew Marane. "Content Integrity" will stop short of verifying facts or whether people have used the places they review.
In an attempt to stem the continuing problem of “fraudulent reviews”, Mr. Andrew Marane has been appointed new “Director of Content Integrity” on TripAdvisor.
Ex-Navy, Marane worked in law enforcement where in the latter part of his career he worked on organized fraud investigations. He then moved on to the insurance industry before his last move to eCommerce and financial markets.
Marane says of his role in TripAdvisor, “People who try to affect the quality on TripAdvisor never stop thinking of new ways to improve their attempts, so we should continue to improve, also.”
It is revealing that TripAdvisor consistently uses the term “fraudulent” rather than “fake” reviews, suggesting that it is more intent on catching owners trying to game the system rather than malicious guests.
In announcing Marane’s appointment TripAdvisor does not mention any plans to verify that reviewers have used the restaurants and hotels that they review, nor to fact-check the veracity of reviews. Until such measures are taken, the use of marketing phrases like “Real reviews by real people” will continue to be forbidden in the UK market despite its use in the article introducing Marane.