Klein & Wilson

Online review policy garners considerable backlash

In a prior post, we explored the question of whether a company could bring suit against a consumer for negative reviews on social media sites such as Yelp.com or Facebook. The prevailing consensus is that a company could sue, but a consumer would have a genuine defense for being able to voice their personal opinions online based on their own experiences.

Indeed, creating false impressions based on bogus claims could possibly be actionable, but a company would likely see an avalanche of backlash should it attempt to silence a reviewer simply because of a bad review. 

Such was the case with the Union Street Guest House in upstate New York. The hotel reportedly warned potential guests that it would impose a $500 fine on their deposit if they posted any negative reviews of the hotel on social media. The warning was allegedly aimed at guests who wanted to book the hotel for weddings and other events.

Word of the policy spread after the New York Post ran a story on it, and then the hotel’s website was inundated with one-star reviews; most shaming the hotel for such a short-sighted policy, while others provided phony reviews out of spite.

The hotel attempted to explain that the policy was a “tongue-in-cheek” standard that was never meant to be enforced, but had never been taken down. However, it posted on its Facebook page an apology for misleading or offending potential customers.

It remains to be seen whether any California hotels will adopt the same approach. 

Source: ABC News.com “Hotel negative review policy spurs online backlash,” AP News, August 4, 2014

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