A lot of us write hotel and restaurant reviews on travel websites, and especially when either we are too happy with the customer service experience, the ambiance and the cuisines or totally disappointed and angry at the unsatisfactory hospitality, lack of professionalism by the staff or bad food quality. But did it ever clicked to us that writing a bad review can get us in legal trouble?
We know it sounds hard to believe and bizarre but a similar case happened in England. While traveling in foreign countries people do take the assistance of websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp to locate good restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs. As per the websites, it is mandatory to leave a review, but a bad review can lead to a defamation suit.
Sarah Gardner, a citizen of UK, reviewed High Rocks Restaurant in Kent on TripAdvisor. She gave a one-star rating and wrote that the staff “have an arrogance that should not exist in a service industry, particularly the management ”. Vinepair wrote that she further added that the food in the restaurant is mediocre at best and restaurant must be surviving only by organizing 18th birthday parties.
As per the British newspaper Mirror, Ms. Gardner received an 11-page letter from the lawyer of the restaurant who called her review defamatory and hence illegal. The letter also held her responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of pounds of business due to a bad review.
The UK has very strong civil defamation laws and in defamation, it is on the accused to prove what he has said. The burden of proof reversal. If the case is taken to court, Ms. Gardner will lose because it will be very difficult for her to prove that the staff is arrogant, food mediocre and worst that the restaurant survives on birthday parties.
Be wary the next time you review a restaurant in Britain.