Travellers who post fake TripAdvisor hotel reviews are to be given a two-week amnesty to remove them or face legal action as well as being named and shamed.
Kwikchex, a reputation-management company that represents more than 800 hotels and restaurants, says that next month it will publish a list of “thousands” of reviewers it suspects of posting fraudulent and defamatory comments.
Those who fail to substantiate their claims and show that they were actually guests at the establishments concerned will face legal action.
Last month, the company announced plans to bring a group legal action against user-generated review websites such as TripAdvisor.
Once its list of suspects is published, the websites concerned will be told to notify any of their “reviewers” on the list.
“People who leave these anonymous reviews, which can damage the reputation of both businesses and individuals, need to realise that not only can they be sued for libel but they can also face criminal prosecution,” said Chris Emmins, of Kwikchex.
“This will commence with a court application for disclosure of all information held by the website publisher regarding the identity of the poster, in order for the business to be able to repair the damage done to its reputation,” he said.
He added that those who could prove they had asked the website, without success, to remove their comments would also be exempt from prosecution.
The move follows a investigation this month by The Telegraph of the reviews that appear on TripAdvisor, which use potentially defamatory terms such as “racist, pervert and homophobic” and appear without any proof or confirmation that the “reviewer” has visited the establishment concerned.
Last month, Tripadvisor became the world’s largest travel website, with more than 40 million hits a month and 25 reviews posted every minute.