How to respond to online defamation in the hospitality sector

The internet – in particular review sites like TripAdvisor - and social media are absolutely essential to success in the hospitality sector.

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How to respond to online defamation in the hospitality sector

The internet – in particular review sites like TripAdvisor – and social media are absolutely essential to success in the hospitality sector. They allow pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels to get closer to their customers and are the primary channels for targeting potential new customers.

On the downside though, the ferocious speed at which social media post can be liked and shared can damage your business’ reputation in just a few hours.

With this in mind, it is vital that every hospitality business closely monitors its own social media channels as well as any mentions they may get in external online publications or posts to limit the risk of reputational damage as much as possible.

If you do find your bar, restaurant or hotel has been the subject of a defamatory post or review, there are a number of wider and legal commercial points you should be consider when assessing what action (if any) should be taken:

1. Act quickly to reduce any reputational damage. If a customer has made a defamatory remark regarding your business in post, Tweet or review, it stands to reason that the longer this remark remains online, the greater the risk is to your business’ reputation. This is particularly the case in respect of social media posts where the content can be shared thousands of times within a matter of minutes.

2. Resist the temptation to respond to the negative/defamatory comments without first weighing up the benefits of submitting a response. It is likely to assist if a consistent policy has been established to deal with such comments.

3. Take steps to mitigate any harm that might be suffered as a result of a defamatory remark. If a comment has been posted on your own social media channel, consider whether steps can be taken to remove this comment. Likewise, if a comment has been made on a social media channel, can steps be taken to contact the relevant website directly to seek to have the comment removed?

4. Take advice as to whether a post is actually defamatory. Often, in the case of negative reviews, whilst the content is obviously unhelpful for a hospitality business given that this may impact on prospective customers, it may not actually constitute defamation. It is important to assess whether this is the case at an early stage so that proportionate steps can be taken to mitigate any damage that could be caused.

We have a great deal of experience in advising bars, restaurants and hotels on the legal and commercial considerations relating to negative comments on social media and in online reviews.

If you would like to discuss how to approach a defamatory and/or negative comment relating to your hospitality business, contact Andrew Broadbent at andrew.broadbent@keebles.com or call Andrew on 0114 2521416.

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