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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Police called in by Letcombe Regis bed and breakfast owners over alleged online 'racist slur' (UK)

The owners of a five-star bed and breakfast establishment have complained to the police and threatened legal action after being branded racist in a review on an Internet site.

Sarah-Jane Ashman, 51, who runs the Brook Barn Country House at Letcombe Regis, said she was devastated after the posting on tripadvisor.com claimed she did not welcome ‘ethnics’.

The website, which promotes itself as the world’s most trusted, dismissed her original complaint, she said, but had taken down the posting because the reviewer had not actually stayed at Brook Barn.

The reviewer, ‘Ferdi’, posted on the internet site: “I think I will be staying away and would recommend to any other ‘ethnics’ to do the same. I do not think they like our sort around there.”

Mrs Ashman said: “I could be called a lot of things and not respond, but to be called a racist was absolutely appalling.

“A couple of Sundays ago, this man turned up totally out of the blue asking to be shown around. I told him I could not do that as I had guests. At which point he left and I did not think anything of it.

“Then on the following Friday, we happened to look at our reviews on tripadvisor and saw this new one saying something along the lines of ethnics are not welcome, which is just shocking.

“I was hugely upset by it, which is why I rang the police.”

She added: “But I feel much more strongly about tripadvisor than this guy.

“They should not have put this comment on the website — not only is it untrue, but it is libellous. What they have done is put this guy in a position where he could be sued for defamation.

“Everyone gets bad reviews, but defamation is not on.”

She is taking action through an online reputation management company, KwikChex.

It is gathering a set of the most serious cases to present to tripadvisor in a bid to get it to change the way it polices its reviews.

Co-founder Chris Emmins said Mrs Ashman contacted the firm after tripadvisor refused to remove the review as it fell within its guidelines.

He said: “She had the usual experience, which was there was an allegation against the business which she completely refuted.”

Mrs Ashman added: “I am not after money but an apology and an acknowledgement from tripadvisor and him that it was defamation.”

Tripadvisor spokesman Emma O’Boyle said the review was taken down as investigation revealed the guest had not stayed in the hotel and was not qualified to comment.

Police spokesman David Staines said: “We have received a complaint about the review and we are investigating the matter.”

The Oxford Times