Here’s something new – a hotel in Blackpool charged a guest £100 for leaving a negative review on TripAdvisor. The money has since been refunded, but has anything similar happened to you?
Online reviews are becoming increasingly valuable for businesses in the tourism industry.
More and more tourists are frequenting websites like TripAdvisor to see what previous customers think of certain holiday accommodations before deciding where to stay. So, it makes sense that many hotels, hostels and B&Bs are doing all they can to ensure customers leave positive reviews. But at least one hotel has taken this concept to an unexpected extreme.
A £100 fine for your views
It’s emerged that The Broadway Hotel in Blackpool charged a couple an extra £100 for leaving a bad review online after their stay. This charge was reportedly listed in the hotel’s booking policy document.
The couple furiously campaigned to get their money back. Tony and Jan Jenkinson from Whitehaven sought a refund via their credit card company after they were fined for describing the hotel as a ‘rotten stinking hovel’ on TripAdvisor. The hotel has since refunded the £100.
The hotel has also removed the policy after Blackpool Trading Standards warned it could breach unfair trading practice regulations. I imagine all the media attention that has stemmed from this will do far more damage to the hotel than a bad review could ever do.
In a statement to the BBC, the hotel said:
‘We exercised this policy with Mr and Mrs Jenkinson as we felt extremely upset by their actions and insulting comments towards our staff.
‘We agree there is room for improvement at our establishment and we desperately want to turn things around.’
Fined for a bad review
Which? lawyers have said that any clause in terms and conditions giving a hotel the right to charge a customer for writing a bad review could be challenged as unfair. In addition, if the policy is not part of the T&Cs then it was not part of the contact, so a hotel would have no right to do it.
We’ll be looking at this issue more thoroughly in the January issue of Which? Travel magazine. In the meantime, we’re keen to discover if any other hotels or B&Bs are adopting similar practices. Have you ever felt pressured to keep your (re)views to yourself? How about being incentivised to leave a positive review?