Dragons Den star and TripAdvisor square up over hotel reviews

Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne and TripAdvisor are involved in an increasingly feisty war of words over what he alleged were defamatory user comments about his properties.

The Glaswegian multi-millionaire entrepreneur is reported to have taken offence after a review on the site TripAdvisor compared one of his hotels to Fawlty Towers.

Bannatyne told The Telegraph: “They have tried to bully me, they have sent threatening letters and emails, they have urged me to shut up, but they won’t speak to me directly.”
“‘TripAdvisor is a despicable and cowardly organisation, which is bullying small hotel owners all over the United Kingdom. As a recent victim of a rogue review, I am well placed to lead the campaign for more protection against the perils of TripAdvisor.”

However, TripAdvisor has responded by accusing Bannatyne of intimidating reviewers including one allaged instance when he posted an individual’s mobile phone number on Twitter.

TripAdvisor spokeswoman Emma O’Boyle said: “We offer hoteliers the opportunity to respond to every review written on TripAdvisor.

“This allows individual travellers the opportunity to give their views and the hotel the right to reply and the final say.  On rare occasions hotels choose to respond less productively and in these cases we do everything possible to protect the consumers’ rights of free speech. 

“However, in the case of Mr Bannatyne’s hotels we have had several worrying examples of individuals being intimidated by Mr Bannatyne and his hotel representatives. 

“TripAdvisor has a zero tolerance approach on bullying as we defend the freedom of speech, hence why we duly sent a letter to the Bannatyne’s Charlton House Spa Hotel manager stating that we do not condone this behaviour. 

“We also take fraud very seriously and will investigate these occasions thoroughly and unverified reviews can be removed from the site, as has been the case with reviews on Bannatyne hotels.”

The US based TripAdvisor does not filter its reviews and allows anyone to post. While this is supported by American law, many of the posts are about British hotels.

Daniel Byrne, Barrister for hotels & leisure specialist law firm Thomas Eggar LLP, said, “In England, once it, (TripAdvisor) has been notified of a defamatory publication it will be liable for its continued publication to the same extent as the author.”

He added that even if Bannatyne was successful in forcing TripAdvisor to remove the review, it was unlikely the company would change its policy.

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