The threatened legal action against TripAdvisor has stepped up a gear with details emerging on strategy and a threat to also pursue those behind alleged defamatory comments.
The reputation management company behind the planned action, UK-based Kwikchex, says the number of enquiries from hotels that consider some comments made on TripAdvisor about their properties are defamatory is "escalating and, more importantly, so does the severity".
Kwikchex CEO Chris Emmins has not disclosed how many other properties have joined a scheme to take on TripAdvisor (last confirmed was over 300) but says the company is to focus on the most damaging incidents, "because we already know there are thousands of potential cases and we will keep getting them".
"The reason for the focus on content is that much of the media coverage refers to 'bad reviews'. What we want to demonstrate is that it is much more serious than that."
Emmins says the possible action - potentially both in the US and the UK, if TripAdvisor does not respond or deal with its demands appropriately - is "nothing to do with removing or suppressing 'bad reviews'".
"This action specifically addresses malicious, untrue and grossly misrepresented comments made about reputable businesses on the TripAdvisor website. It deals with the role that TripAdvisor plays and the ways that maligned businesses can defend themselves."
TripAdvisor is understood to be receiving the first round of documentation later this week. The user review giant has maintained its silence throughout the issue so far, saying it will not comment on "threatened or pending litigation".
Kwikchex has also this week moved to hit back at speculation the company is carrying out the legal threat as a publicity stunt.
"Numerous attempts to correct the distortions and defamatory comments using the procedures suggested by TripAdvisor have failed and individual actions are very costly for businesses that are claiming defamation, so a group action has in effect become a necessity."
The alleged cases of defamation are now to be grouped into three distinct areas:
- Properties featured in email correspondence from TripAdvisor to members.
- Properties singled out on the main TripAdvisor site.
- Properties accused of racism, theft, assault and other criminal activity.
But in an interesting twist this week, Kwikchex says it will also go after those that left the alleged defamatory comments in the first place if TripAdvisor does not act on its demands.
Emmins claims there is "plenty of legal precedent in this now, particularly in the US" and a number of incidents could be put in front of courts to force disclosure.
"Unless there is swift improvement in these severe categories, there are many posters who are about to find themselves being tracked down and asked to substantiate their allegations in court."
Kwikchex says it is now unlikely that it will throw the entire list of aggrieved properties at TripAdvisor in one go, preferring to "take a few from each category [areas 1 to 3 outlined above] so that TA can fully evaluate what has been going on rather than drown them in numbers at this stage".