There was a time when we just had to put up with disappointment on holiday. We'd suffer through a stay at a dirty hotel, a horrible meal in a restaurant, or misery at a terrible tourist attraction, with no possible come-back. Now, however, we have TripAdvisor - where we can vent all our anger and frustration through a searing review. The trouble is, warns one exert, that doing so could prove very costly.
The team at DAS Law say that the trouble is that there can be a fine line between a bad review, and libel. If you stray over that line, then a business could take you to court - which can incredibly costly.
Holly Heath, a solicitor at DAS Law said: "Like many aspects of law, common sense and truth are the watch-words. 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."
A business would have to spend a small fortune thing you to court, but if they were successful, 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.
To avoid this kind of potential consequence, they suggest two rules:
1. Be honest
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.
2. Don't assume you can say what you like because it's a free country
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.
To this we would add two more:
3. Don't wait to take it out on TripAdvisor
Nobody likes confrontation, but moaning about poor service after the fact should be a last resort. If you are shown to a dirty hotel room, request a clean one. If your food is inedible, send it back and get something else. If the tourist attraction hasn't delivered, then go to customer services and request a refund. If you are travelling with a tour operator, go to see the rep and ask that they sort out anything you are unhappy with.
Not every business will respond well, but every business should be allowed to try. You never know, they may even throw in a freebie or an upgrade to keep you sweet.
4. Sleep on it
You have every right to report a bad experience, but try not to do it in the heat of the moment. Wait until the fury has passed, then sit down and carefully draft an honest review that's designed to help others rather than score points against the business that let you down. Nobody ever counted anything they did in the heat of the moment as their finest work.