A couple say they were 'fined' £100 by a Blackpool hotel for leaving a negative review on Tripadvisor.
Tony and Jan Jenkinson, from Cumbria, were on their way to visit family in Oxford, and decided to split their journey up. They chose to stay at the Broadway Hotel and paid £36 for the double room.
After being unhappy with their stay, they left a scathing review on Tripadvisor, which complained of wallpaper peeling off, thin, dirty carpet, kettle and hot tap not working, and a dirty bed.
It described the breakfast as a "joke" and, according to the Guardian, finished: "This place should be shut down, I don't know if they are ever inspected, but if so, I don't know how this place has passed!!
"If you are offered this place to stay for a fortnight for 10p, you are being robbed!! STAY AWAY!!!"
They later found £100 charged to their credit card by the hotel.
According to the BBC, the couple didn't see the hotel policy of charging for negative reviews, which is contained in a booking document. It says: "Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not.
"For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review."
Speaking to the BBC, John Greenbank, north trading standards area manager, said it was a "novel" way to prevent bad reviews.
He said: "I have worked for trading standards for many years and have never seen anything like this.
"The hotel management clearly thinks they have come up with a novel way to prevent bad reviews, however we believe this could be deemed an unfair trading practice."
Cllr John McCreesh, Cabinet Member for Trading Standards, told the Daily Telegraph: "This is outrageous behaviour by the hotel concerned and an attack on free speech. The couple say they posted an honest review about the hotel which they feel was below par and they were stung for £100 as a result.
"Customers need to be free to be honest about the service they're getting. Other customers depend upon it. Hotel owners should focus on getting their service right rather than shutting down aggrieved customers with threats and fines. People should have the right to vent their disappointment if a hotel stay did not meet their expectations and should not be prevented from having their say."
But the couple can now breathe a sigh of relief, because they have been told their £100 will be reimbursed.
Blackpool council said on Wednesday that the couple will get their money back and the hotel will scrap its policy.
Gillian Campbell, council cabinet member responsible for public protection at the local authority, told the Guardian: "Our trading standards team became aware of this issue last week. As a result, we have spoken to the hotel owner and asked for the policy to be removed, which has now happened.
"This is a unique case and not one that we have come across before."