Representatives of travel and restaurant review portal TripAdvisor appeared at a Commercial Court in Barcelona on Friday to defend the company in a case which brings the saying don’t shoot the messenger to mind.
TripAdvisor stands accused of causing moral damages to Spanish tourism company Recaba Inversiones Turísticas for allowing three bad reviews about two of their restaurants to be posted and for not asking the company for permission before creating online profiles for the establishments.
The comments, referring to two beachside Valencia restaurants it owns – Marina Beach and Panorama – included the words “they rip off Spain’s Social Security system”, “no workers’ rights” and “toxic food”.
Their TripAdvisor profiles have dozens of other negative comments criticising everything from the food to the service which haven't been brought up in the investigation.
TripAdvisor’s vice-president Bradford Young appeared in the Barcelona Court to defend how the company actions weren’t unfair competition nor “contrary to good faith”.
Young explained how they’ve developed an algorithmic system which guarantees “trustworthy opinions” – Spanish news agency EFE reported – as well as having a team that gathers data on reviews that go against what guidebooks and other reviews state.
According to TripAdvisor, “the business always has the last say”, giving them the chance to reply to negative comments and prevent complainants from continuing with the accusations.
Also worth noting is that the three bad reviews used by the Valencia restaurant group to open up a case against TripAdvisor were all flagged early on, two of which were taken down before the court case began.
“There are hundreds of reviews relating to offences that business owners would prefer weren’t posted online, but that’s not the reason why they get deleted, rather because they aren’t first-hand opinions.”
TripAdvisor doesn’t allow restaurant and other travel business profiles to be deleted all together, as the restaurant holding would’ve wanted, because they stand up for the rights of users to share their experiences and find accurate information on their destinations.
“If we took them down, we’d be silencing critics,” Young told the judge.
“We have to protect freedom of speech”