When does a bad TripAdvisor review become libellous?

Author: DAS Law

Date: 09/09/2016

Fire megaphoneHolidaymakers are increasingly choosing to ignore the glossy holiday brochure blurb and turning to the seemingly more honest review sites such as TripAdvisor when choosing a holiday. But could sharing summer holiday experiences within a TripAdvisor review turn into an unexpected legal dispute?

The team at DAS Law have put together some handy tips to help ensure a review of your hot week in the sun doesn’t get you into hot water.

Avoiding trouble for holidaymakers

The most important thing is to tell the truth. A TripAdvisor review is not libellous if the statements contained in the review are true. You are entitled to give your honest opinion. A bad review is only defamatory if you make a false statement which is likely to cause financial loss to a business.

Whilst you have the right to freedom of expression, this is not an absolute right and does not give you the right to make defamatory statements. Avoid making such statements, but don’t be deterred from sharing your honest views and experiences.

What is the difference between libel and slander?

Libel is a defamatory statement in a permanent form (e.g. websites, films, writing and radio/TV broadcast).

Slander is a defamatory statement in a transient form (i.e. oral defamatory statements).

But what are the consequences of getting it wrong? A business pursuing a claim for libel without a just cause could prove costly as they could face huge legal fees if they are unsuccessful. However, if a business is successful in a defamation case against you, they would generally be able to recover compensation, legal costs and get a court order instructing you to remove your review from the website and publish an apology.

What can business owners do?

For a business, an unhappy reviewer may not make pleasant reading but a bad review does not always equate to a defamatory one. Court action should generally be the last resort as defamation claims could be very costly.

If you are considering litigation, specialist advice must be sought. Businesses can report the comment to the website but if the comment is genuine the website is unlikely to take it down even if it appears to be defamatory. Many travel sites such as TripAdvisor allow businesses to provide a response to the review giving their side of the story.

Holly Heath, solicitor at DAS Law said: “Like many aspects of law, common sense and truth are the watchwords. Whilst you’re entitled to express your views and post your opinions, be aware of the potential impact this may have on the hotel or business you stayed at.

“If your review is not truthful and has a negative financial impact, then your review could be considered libellous in a court of law.”

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