People who post fake hotel reviews on TripAdvisor are to be named and shamed – and could face legal action, it has been revealed.
Kwikchex, an online reputation management company acting on behalf of 800 hotels and restaurants, plans to publish a list of ‘thousands of reviewers’ that it suspects of fraudulent and defamatory posts.
Once the list is published, websites that feature user-generated content will have to notify any reviewers on the list. They will be given two weeks to remove their comments. They could face legal action if they cannot prove that they visited the hotels or restaurants concerned.
Kwikchex’s Chris Emmins told The Telegraph: ‘‘People who leave these anonymous reviews, which can damage the reputation of both businesses and individuals, need to realise that not only can they be sued for libel but they can also face criminal prosecution.’
The company said they would apply for a court application that would force the website publisher to disclose any information they held regarding the identity of the poster so that the business could ‘repair the damage done to its reputation’.
Anyone who can prove that they have asked the website, without success, to remove their comments will be exempt from prosecution.
‘In these cases, the website will be presumed to have taken full responsibility for the continued publication of the posts’, Emmins said.
A spokesman for TripAdvisor said it could not comment on any proposed legal action but said it would only release the names of its reviewers if ordered to do so by a court of law.
The editors of the Good Hotel Guide last week accused TripAdvisor of being ‘brazen and shameless’ in printing malicious reviews without checking their authenticity.
GHG editor Adam Raphael said his publication had been besieged by hoteliers complaining about ‘fraudulent reviews’ and ‘bogus reviewers’ on TripAdvisor.
‘Millions of consumers are also beginning to realise that they have been gulled by bogus reviewers,’ he said.
‘Many hotels are now massaging their TripAdvisor profile by inspiring reviews which pretend to be independent, but which, in reality, are written by friends, relations and public relations companies.’