Threat of lawsuit over Web review

Q&A

May 25, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

I stayed at a place in Palm Springs, Calif., that I didn't like and posted my review on TripAdvisor.com. I received a letter from an attorney threatening to sue me for libel if I did not remove my negative review within 14 days. When I contacted TripAdvisor, I received an e-mail that said the site took the threats seriously, but they didn't even ask for a copy of the attorney's letter. Shouldn't TripAdvisor be leading the charge for protecting customers?

That fine print that no one reads when you agree to the terms and conditions on TripAdvisor lets the site off the hook.

Brooke Ferencsik, TripAdvisor's senior manager of media relations, said in an e-mail, "It is rare that a hotelier threatens a reviewer with legal action, but if we are made aware of such an instance, we will send out a letter to the owner alerting them that their property will be actively monitored by TripAdvisor for suspicious activity and that they must discontinue any attempts to subvert our system. We also make them aware that we have a procedure for penalizing businesses who make such attempts."

"The hotel should spend the money on maintenance rather than attorney fees," said Al Anolik, a travel-rights attorney in the San Francisco Bay area. He says most guests are only trying to give constructive criticism.

Ruth Furman, who owns Image Words, a Las Vegas-based public relations and marketing enterprise, said: "I'd suggest they [the hotel] do exactly what I've seen other property owners do on TripAdvisor: Have one of their representatives post a concise statement in accordance with TripAdvisor's posting policy, stating that they regret the traveler's negative experience and that they have addressed the issues."

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