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B&B owners in court in bid to sue writers of bad TripAdvisor review

Martin and Jacqui Clark, who own Tigh-Na-Cheo, at Kinlochleven, want TripAdvisor to release the names and addresses of two reviewers who left negative feedback on the site.

Tigh Na Cheo Guest House in Kinlochleven, Lochaber tripadvisor page January 17 2014

The owners of a Highland guest house have gone to court to seek details from an internet travel website of the writers of two bad reviews in a bid to sue the authors.

Martin and Jacqui Clark said that one report was false and that another set out events that were fictional.

The couple said they want to raise legal proceedings against the writer or writers of the reviews suing for defamation.

They have asked the Court of Session in Edinburgh to make an order for TripAdvisor to disclose the names, addresses and other information they have on the identity of the authors.

The travel website has challenged the move over its competency claiming that there is no jurisdiction.

The guest house operators maintain in their petition: "The postings purported to review events that did not take place. They were not reviews submitted by actual travellers."

It is said the reviews were submitted contrary to the rules of TripAdvisor and that the postings were not made contemporaneously.

Both writers claimed to have visited the premises in September 2011, but the reviews did not appear until February and March the following year.

It is alleged that the postings were made maliciously and also "the reviews published were abuse or invective in the form of criticism".

Graeme Henderson, counsel for the couple, said they were applying to seek such assistance as they could from TripAdvisor over the identity of the two individuals named in the reviews as "edna B" and "dreckit".

He told the court: "This is a proposed action in respect of which the pursuers take exception to two postings on the website. My position is they were plainly defamatory."

Mr Henderson said the couple, who operate a guest house, Tigh-Na-Cheo, at Kinlochleven, in Lochaber, said they can plainly claim damages as individuals and for loss of business.

"Living in the real world there is a substantial claim for defamation," he told judge Paul Arthurson QC.

"Proceedings are more likely to be brought against the two writers than anyone else," said Mr Henderson.

"TripAdvisor effectively is the holder of information in a dispute of other parties. That is really TripAdvisor's role in the dispute between the petitioners and the unknown posters," he said.

Mr Henderson said: "We are not, as petitioners, pursuing TripAdvisor. All we are simply doing is seeking a court order for information.

"Provided a court has got jurisdiction to hear a case of defamation then I can ask the court to pronounce an order asking someone to disclose information. Whether it is enforceable or not is something I have to worry about at a later time," he said.

In the petition brought seeking the court order it is said that a reviewer must agree to guidelines and terms of use issued by TripAdvisor.

The conditions include that they must be family-friendly, written by actual travellers and unique and independent.

The terms also say that as a condition of use of the website the writer must warrant that all information supplied is true, accurate, current and complete.

In the action it is said that TripAdvisor retains information on their reviewers, including their first and last names, telephone number and email address and that it collects information regarding the ip address of the writer and their location.

Paul O'Brien, counsel for the travel website firm, said there were pleadings set out that TripAdvisor had a place of business in England, but its position was that its place of business was in Massachusetts, in the USA.

He pointed out that nobody was contending it was in Scotland.

He said: "I am told TripAdvisor maintains its computer systems in the US."

He said that, even to recover information from other parts of the UK, the court would issue a request to a court in that part of the country.

Mr O'Brien argued that the legislation under which the order was sought was not available in the circumstances against TripAdvisor.

He also maintained that the guest house proprietors entered an agreement that claims of this kind would be brought in Massachusetts.

The judge reserved his decision in the case.

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