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Tripadvisor Troll Ordered To Pay Restaurant Owner £7500 For Posting Fake Negative Reviews

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Tripadvisor Troll Ordered To Pay Restaurant Owner £7500 For Posting Fake Negative Reviews

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

An online troll recently posted a number of fake negative reviews of a restaurant on Tripadvisor, not realising that the owner happened to have a law degree from Cambridge. Whoops.

Martin Stewart Potts was taken to court over his 'campaign of hate' and has since been ordered to pay £7,455 ($9,881) to Steve Hoddy, the clued-up owner of Bispham Kitchen in Blackpool.

Potts posted a total of ten sour reviews against the eatery, which included claims that the food made him and his wife and kids sick. He also said that the haddock was in fact 'catfish' and that their chips were 'fried in burnt oil', all of which turned out to be false.

His actions then backfired horribly after Hoddy, a trained lawyer with a first-class degree from the esteemed university, decided to snap back.

Steve Hoddy, the owner of the Bispham Kitchen in Blackpool. Credit: SWNS
Steve Hoddy, the owner of the Bispham Kitchen in Blackpool. Credit: SWNS

During a hearing in July, Judge Sephton ruled that Potts was guilty of malicious falsehood and ordered him to pay the compensation sum to the owner.

Speaking after the verdict, Hoddy commented on how trolling had become 'rife', adding: "It's becoming a pandemic of its own. It wrecks businesses.

"I have owned Bispham Kitchen for 44 years now and my business is robust enough to withstand this sort of nonsense.

"But particularly for hotels, it is a real problem because people really do take note of hotel reviews because they are spending larger sums of money. It is the scourge of modern society."

He went on to discuss Potts who 'used eight different usernames', explaining: "He put the first review on, and it said, 'owner glares at you weirdly when you are trying to eat your fish and chips, not a nice experience'."

After responding to the review, Hoddy - who is the managing director of six restaurants and a takeaway - said this only seemed to provoke Potts into a spate of reviews over the next couple of weeks.

Martin Stewart Potts had left over 100 reviews on Tripadvisor through his fake accounts. Credit: Courtney Corlew/Unsplash
Martin Stewart Potts had left over 100 reviews on Tripadvisor through his fake accounts. Credit: Courtney Corlew/Unsplash

Luckily, the business owner knew what to look out for and noticed the same spelling mistakes made across several write-ups.

After realising Potts had written about a hundred reviews of other places using four different usernames, he decided to confront the troll.

He said: "I gave him a letter warning him that unless he apologised for the reviews, I would sue him for malicious falsehood."

At first, Potts denied involvement.

"But when I presented him with incontrovertible evidence, he drip-fed admissions, but still resisted the case," added Hoddy, "The case came up in Manchester Crown Court on July 19. I won and was awarded £7,455 in damages and costs."

Hoddy said the case highlighted how easy it was for malicious trolls to hide their identities on websites like Tripadvisor.

He said: "You can't get anywhere with Tripadvisor to get them to reveal the identity of the reviewers.

Hoddy has outlined how easy it is for trolls to ruin businesses through Tripadvisor. Credit: SWNS
Hoddy has outlined how easy it is for trolls to ruin businesses through Tripadvisor. Credit: SWNS

"One of their terms and conditions is that any dispute with Tripadvisor must be decided in the court of Massachusetts, where they are based, so you would have to go to the US."

At the time, the businessman contacted Tripadvisor to point out the reviews could not be correct and the website later took down the comments.

He explained that most businesses would not be able to put together a successful malicious falsehood case as they are 'complicated and expensive'.

Thankfully in this case he was able to use the knowledge and skills he had learned at uni, adding: "I enjoyed doing it, it was what I had been trained for.

"But I did not do it for the money, it was for the principle - to send a message to those who think they can damage a business or a personal reputation at will."

A UK spokesman for Tripadvisor, which is based in Needham, Massachusetts, said: "Tripadvisor takes the issue of fraud extremely seriously and we use the best in technology and human moderation practices to fight it.

"Our advice to business owners and consumers alike is simple: if you see a review that arouses suspicion or breaches any of our guidelines, please report it to us.

"Our team will then investigate, and act accordingly."

Words: Daisy Phillipson

Topics: Food, Restaurant

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