TripAdvisor court case to go ahead?

tripadvisor_owl_blueIn what may be described as a very qualified victory, a B&B owner in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides has won the right to sue TripAdvisor in his native country for allegedly publishing fake reviews.

Back in August, it was reported that Richard Gollin, owner of the Baile na Cille B&B on the Isle of Lewis, had launched a small claims action at Stornoway Sheriff Court over what he said were ‘false and malicious’ criticisms. Mr Gollin claimed that these ‘fake’ criticisms had cost him valuable bookings of around £2,000 and that TripAdvisor had ignored him when he asked it to remove some postings. The guesthouse, officially rated on Trip­Advisor as “#1 of 1 Timsgarry B&B and Inns” in Timsgarry, Lewis, currently has 58 reviews, 37 of which rate it as “excellent.”

TripAdvisor initially denied it was subject to UK laws and said it could not be sued in Britain, given that its firm is headquartered in Massachusetts and is therefore outwith the remit of Scotland’s legal system. It has now conceded that it can be sued in Scotland. There is, however, a twist.

Sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie ruled in TripAdvisor’s favour over transferring the action from the small claims court to a higher court, which requires Mr Gollin to retain a lawyer and be exposed to unlimited expenses. It remains to be seen whether or not he will go ahead with this very risky course of action. In the meantime, he has lodged an appeal, which is expected to be heard in Stornoway within the next two months.

It would be fascinating to see what happened if Mr Gollin decided to take the plunge. But in the light of the Sheriff’s ruling, it’s perhaps more likely that any future challenge to TripAdvisor will be a joint one, similar to the “class action” suits in the United States.

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