Brook Barn Country House in Oxfordshire has earned itself the highest reputation – one of the top places to stay in Oxfordshire on Trivago,
AA 5 stars – and a 97% ‘popularity ranking’ on TripAdvisor.
They have just asked KwikChex to help with a defamation issue on TripAdvisor.
5 days ago, a post appeared on their TripAdvisor profile. It wasn’t from a customer, but rather from someone that just dropped by and wanted a tour. They considered the manner of the owner a little on the brusque side – so went on to TripAdvisor when they got home and branded them as racists – and recommended that any ‘ ethnics’ stayed away.
Horrified, the owners contacted both the police and TripAdvisor. The police responded quickly and with great concern.
After considering the circumstances, TripAdvisor responded with an email that stated ‘We have looked at the review in question and determined that it does meet TripAdvisor’s listing criteria. Therefore, it will not be removed.’
Even a cursory glance at the post would determine that it is libellous as an accusation and has been made with no substance whatsoever.
By making an accusation of racism, the poster is inciting racial hatred, almost certainly contravening UK criminal laws.
TripAdvisor also stated in their email; ‘While we are unable to remove the review in question, we do respect and support your right to explain your perspective through our management response feature. This feature provides you with the opportunity to respond to the language of the review and tell your side of the story. Your management response will be attached to the respective review so that our members can read both perspectives.’
Whilst far from satisfied, the owners viewed it as essential that some type of response was made, so they used the suggested management response feature.
TripAdvisor have not published their response.
This case epitomises the issues at stake for business owners. There are thousands of such serious allegations on the site. All are unverified. TripAdvisor enable these to be published to a worldwide audience. They unilaterally, without verification, reject the submissions of the maligned business – even when offered evidence – or even as in this case, when it has been serious enough to report to the police.
This is not an isolated incident as the outline details / statistics of our submissions to TripAdvisor demonstrate. When dealing with the reputation of a business or individual, it is not acceptable to say that the majority of the reviews are OK. That is like saying that it is excusable to call someone a thief, a racist or an abuser as long as 300 others have said they are honest. If such accusations were made against a police officer or a judge, you would expect legal action to follow. Why should it be acceptable to permit it and protect the perpetrators because they are a restaurant, hotel or other business that counts on goodwill and reputation to earn a living?
In addition to the legal aspects, there is a burning question of ethics to be answered here. It is cases like this that are at the heart of what KwikChex are doing on behalf of our members and in our broader quest to see fundamental changes take place that protect decent citizens and which do not mislead the public.
(This case study was included in the article ‘KwikChex Update 21st Sep 2010 – Defamation Actions‘- to read the full article – click here)
Update to Brook Barn Case study 27/09/2010
Whilst Tripadvisor originally refused to remove the post in question, following extensive press coverage it has now been deleted.