back to article Blackpool hotel 'fines' couple £100 for crap TripAdvisor review

A British couple is fuming after a hotel reportedly charged them an extra £100 for leaving a damning TripAdvisor review. Tony and Jan Jenkinson spent one night at the Broadway Hotel in stunning Blackpool, were distinctly unimpressed with the experience, and wrote about it on travel reviews website TripAdvisor. But they had …

  1. IT Hack

    Boohoo

    Cry me a river. You don't want bad reviews? Don't go online to flog your wares. Or you know...reply to the bad review and explain why it had gone wrong, what you had done to fix it or plan to or to highlight unreasonable behaviour.

    This is a perfect respose for example -

    http://uproxx.com/webculture/2014/10/a-negative-yelp-review-led-to-this-hilarious-take-down-from-the-restaurants-owner/

    1. goldcd

      This one's my favourite

      http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g186370-d2440887-r161671908-Sotto_Sotto-Bath_Somerset_England.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT

      #1 Restaurant in Bath - and they put effort as much effort into their responses, as their food.

      1. FartingHippo
        Thumb Up

        Re: This one's my favourite

        That's wonderful. Not difficult to guess which one of them is telling porkies.

      2. Don Dumb
        Pint

        Re: This one's my favourite

        @goldcd - +1 for Sotto Sotto, hadn't seen that review/response exchange but I'm very tempted to start a 'mini-viral' amongst my friends.

        I have had a birthday meal there and many friends consider it the best restaurant in Bath. I already had very high regard for this place (I can also validate the truth of their claims that they provide a birthday profiterole and complimentary Limoncello). But that response is so brilliant, it raises my esteem for them even higher.

      3. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: This one's my favourite

        Beautiful ! Just beautiful !

        It's nice to see someone stand up to the dolts who whine "I'll write you a bad review !" like it's an automatic entitlement to freebies and compensation.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boohoo

      Simpler than that - don't want bad reviews - provide better service?

      1. Ragarath

        Re: Boohoo @AC

        Not that simple, human nature is weird. There are people that post bad things just because they can.

        1. Billa Bong

          Re: Boohoo @ Ragarath

          I up-vote because I can, and because you deserve it for that observation.

          I think the reason is simply that we as a culture are so poor at rational, thoughtful complaint (not slander) direct to the appropriate party. We, as a nation, somehow feel "protected" by the anonymity of the internet, not having to deal direct with the person that has perceptively disadvantaged us.

          I wish that it was possible to prevent anyone posting a review online before at least trying to speak direct to the owner/manager about the issues. It might not stop you wanting to post a bad review, but will at least give them the opportunity to put things right or express their side of the tale, thus giving you more of an objective view (or confirming that the reason the establishment is so poor is bad management). Of course practically it's impossible to do this, so I guess keep calm and carry on...

          1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

            Re: Boohoo @ Ragarath

            Let's not forget that Yelp itself isn't known to be overly kind to businesses. There is a reason some businessestry turning the tables especially given we now know Yelp's practices aren't illegal.

          2. Agile

            Re: Boohoo @ Ragarath

            Unfortunately it is often the management policy which upsets visitors like not cleaning the toilets!

            Also a very few restaurants which are not licenced to sell wine but also refuse to let you bring your own when so many restaurants will.

            What the owner and staff choose to drink is their own personal choice, but equally I see it as my choice to drink wine with my dinner.

        2. chris lively

          Re: Boohoo @AC

          Down voting. Because I can and it costs me absolutely nothing. Which, ironically, is your point.

    3. ItsNotMe
      WTF?

      Re: Boohoo

      Must be something afoot with their reviews currently. Have they just managed to pull in £17,000 from unhappy reviewers?

      255 reviews from our community

      Traveler rating

      Excellent 17

      Very good 35

      Average 33

      Poor 24

      Terrible 146

      http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g186332-d554701-Reviews-Broadway_Hotel-Blackpool_Lancashire_England.html

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Boohoo

        And, if you notice, unlike what the article states about trolls crawling out, many of those low reviews are more than 3 weeks old. This ain't just the interweb lynching a poor wretch for a clumsy (and stupid) attempt at muzzling undue criticism.

        Granted, the amount of upvotes to those poor ratings is probably motivated by their recent press coverage.

        Personally, unlike some other posters above, I don't particularly care for businesses giving out frequent explanations/rebuttals, even apologies to bad reviews. When you have a business which is constantly justifying itself, you get the impression that they spend more time doing PR than fixing their product.

        That's different when it's have a business which generally gets good reviews and feels like they ought to communicate with a few disgruntled customers.

        From a quick perusal of the older reviews, this hotel just seems to stink, period (and probably literally too).

        1. IT Hack

          Re: Boohoo

          @ JLV

          Easy answer for the owners?

          Just state "what the hell do you expect for 35 quid a night? The fucking Ritz?"

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Boohoo

            > Just state "what the hell do you expect for 35 quid a night? The fucking Ritz?"

            The average Travelodge is about this price and they're generally (some exceptions) clean and quiet.

            Rising Damp was supposed to be a situation comedy, not a documentary.

            1. IT Hack

              Re: Boohoo

              @Alan Brown

              Yes. And Travelodge also have some 6,000 employees, generated something something like 300 million squids in revenue (2010 figures according to wiki)...unlike this little pokey hotel.

              Cheap one hotel operations charging low cost rooms are not going to match places like Travelodge...

              1. Matt 21

                Re: Boohoo

                While in this case it may be that the hotel is not a nice place to stay the whole principal of these reviews is at the very least unfair in my opinion. In fact I'd go as far to say that these kind of review sites are fast becoming useless.

                As a business you often have no come back (although some sites do allow it) and if you do reply it can look like you're making excuses. Some complaints aren't even from people who've used your product or service. Some people get their friends to post bad reviews for fun or for other reasons.

                Some examples I've seen:

                "I didn't like the colour of product X I bought". Well it's advertised as that colour so what did you expect?

                "The TV I bought doesn't fit in my room". Well it's advertised with its dimensions......

                etc. etc.

                Even positive reviews don't help because they often seem to be biased by devotees or reviews which sound suspiciously like they've been written by people working for the people providing the product or service.

                Spotting the genuine reviews among the dross is taking longer and longer to the point where sometimes I just give up.

                Of course there are some funny ones along the way, like Veet for men and the "big ships" ones.

  2. ratfox Silver badge

    Legal?

    I'm pretty certain there are limits to what businesses can put in the fine print. Like, say, replace this £100 with £1'000'000, and it becomes obviously illegal.

    I hope these practices are formally banned, though.

    1. Cliff

      Re: Legal?

      Just needs some high publicity cases for the legal status of these bogus clauses to be clarified as unfair. This is popular in the US just now with shitty companies like Roca Labs - plenty about them on techdirt for anyone interested.

      1. Proud Father

        Re: Legal?

        Extortion? Fraud? Definitely not legal IMO.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Legal?

      As for unlawful Terms&Conditions that you've signed: There's typical EULAs inside software packaging about breaking the seal implying your agreement with all the paperwork -- every company using them didn't mean they had legal standing.

      I'm in a quite similar legal situation, being sued by a B&B as we speak. Their T&Cs say you have to pay 100% of the week's stay, whatever happens, and we felt we had to cancel... In a few months we'll know if such terms are legal or not; I'm not familiar with the relevant laws. It's going to cost on translations though, through the European Small Claims Procedure.

      So it's time for some choice reviews on multiple review sites in multiple languages, I guess. I don't think management will have much reply as the case is a matter of public record.

      [We never went to the B&B as they so impressively rude and difficult the day beforehand about getting the access key, over 10+ emails, so much so that we booked an alternative hotel on the morning itself: We were convinced they had double-booked (accidentally?) and were just stretching time to see if either wouldn't show up; it was a festive period and all good/convenient places were fully booked.]

      I guess there's still enough pensioners that don't use the internet that you can still fill a hotel/B&B for another decade or so, however terrible reviews are. For a more hip and hype-dependent venture like a schmancy restaurant (I'm thinking of Ramsay's unhappy host http://uproxx.com/tv/2013/05/amys-baking-company-began-its-grand-re-opening-week-tonight/ Amy's Bakery Comp here), I think it's a bit doomed.

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Legal?

        >Their T&Cs say you have to pay 100% of the week's stay

        There are plenty of valid reasons why hotels have no-show policies that include billing you if you've caused them to lose business by reserving and then not showing up.

        I am NOT saying that you were not justified in giving those folks the boot. And a full week's stay seems a bit over the top too. I am saying that the facts need verification in your case, not just a blanket dismissal that such terms are contractually null and void in general.

        I would hate to lose the convenience of guaranteed reservations because honest business owners could not enforce reasonable terms.

        p.s. Why do I anticipate an impending name change for the Broadway Hotel? Not necessarily a change of management scumbags mind you, but a name change.

    3. Infernoz Bronze badge

      Re: Legal?

      No unlawful i.e. a null and void contract, because there are strict requirements for a contact to be lawful, and small print is a definite no no!

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Legal?

      It's illegal anyway - unfair clauses in consumer contracts, etc.

      I see the local Trading Standards office has weighed in on it.

      I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation - and the one from Visa threatening to revoke their merchant account for making bogus charges (Visa and Mastercard both stomp bloody hard on merchants who try this sort of shit)

      1. Tapeador
        Thumb Up

        @ Alan Brown Re: Legal?

        Quite right. I'd be really interested to know actually what Visa's (or their merchant services provider, or whoever's) Ts & Cs say about use of merchant accounts for this kind of thing, some clause about "disreputable use" or so which just allows the provider discretion to say "this is crazy shit, we are pulling the plug dude".

        I'd also be interested to know what's the procedure for reporting this behaviour to the merchant services provider- is it just something that Visa or Mastercard do after they approve a chargeback (I don't think Visa or Mastercard are actually the MSP, that's going to be more like an org like RBOS or so).

      2. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: Legal?

        That's really why you need a one-time number linked to your credit card. It stops secondary charges being placed after the fact like this and it also prevents arsehole insurance companies from placing recurring annual charges on your card when you only signed up for one year's insurance and wasn't forewarned of their shady practises apart from in the finest print of the 30+ page disclosure statement sent after the first deduction was made.

        1. Ed_UK

          Re: Legal?

          Yes, yes, YES!

          "also prevents arsehole insurance companies from placing recurring annual charges on your card when you only signed up for one year's insurance "

          Just stay away from dishonest weasels like Budget Insurance. They'll promise not to try any of that auto-renewal crap again, don't worry, until eleven months later. Then you get the letter saying they're helping themselves to your money, so you write, email and 'phone them to say don't bloody dare. They acknowledge your request and THEN try to steal your money. With luck, your credit/debit card will have been re-issued by then, with a new number, thwarting them. Then, they'll be after you for an admin fee for messing them around. Avoid Budget!

    5. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: Legal?

      Contract law is simple(ish) - an unfair contract is not legal.

      Obviously, interpreting it as fair or unfair is a different matter, but taking away or penalising the right to complain seems to contravene basic consumer protection.

    6. chris lively

      Re: Legal?

      You don't pay for your cell phone do you? Hidden crap like that all over the place.

  3. arctic_haze Silver badge
    FAIL

    Absolutely outrageous

    I wonder if the clause would be enforceable if you booked with booking.com or similar company. After all you did not have the clause in your booking.com reservation so you may argue it was imposed on you after you chose the hotel (an most probably payed). Booking com encourages you to rate the hotel after you stay there and nowhere says you are financially liable for negative reviews.

    Generally a clause saying you owe money to hotel you stayed in for things you did afterward is dubious and this is an understatement. Why not add another that if you marry within 10 years after the stay, you owe the hotel your first born son.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Absolutely outrageous

      You can put whatever you want into a contract (T's and C's) however there is a huge difference between a clause being listed and it being enforceable. The contract laws are surprisingly recognicient of the fact that most people won't understand or have the inclination to read small print on every occasion therefore unfair clauses are pretty easy to invalidate.

      However this doesn't stop the scumbags trying it on with their next victim who might not complain, or complain loudly enough.

      1. Don Dumb
        Boffin

        Re: Absolutely outrageous

        @Nick Ryan - "The contract laws are surprisingly recognicient of the fact that most people won't understand or have the inclination to read small print on every occasion therefore unfair clauses are pretty easy to invalidate."

        There's a few principles in UK (part of which is EU) contract law which protect the common man from bad contracts. These seem to be the most relevant to this story:

        1: - Capacity - Anyone with competence may enter into a contract which is enforceable by law. This precludes minors (under 18), people with mental disorders and people who are incapacitated through alcohol/drugs. - This is the main protection, in that it protects those who can't understand contracts or clauses in them into being legally bound by them. The principle covers being incapacitated or a minor but it also enshrines the principle that the average person can't be expected to understand a complex legal document and therefore consumer contracts can't throw in clauses which the layman would not expect (like charges for bad reviews) or conditions which a court decides are unfair, regardless of whether they have been signed up to. A business signing up to a contract would not have the same protections, as they are expected to understand T&Cs.

        2: - Legality of Object - A contract is considered 'illegal' if the consideration or object (i.e. the item that's being purchased) either contravenes the provision of Statute or Common Law or is contrary to Public Policy. - So many businesses seem to try and 'forget' that they can't put a clause in their contracts which is illegal (i.e. a no refunds policy) or which commit to an illegal act (this is why all those who signed away their first borns in a Wifi login did not actually do that).

        3: - Mistake - A genuine error, unintentional deceit or misunderstanding might count as Mistake and the contract might become invalid, or voidable by one or more of the contracting parties. The legal concept of Mistake is complex. - But in this case the fact that they thought they were agreeing to stay in a hotel for a night and not signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA - which no one would expect to be signing) should count as a genuine misunderstanding.

        If the hotel wanted to prevent bad reviews it could get the customer to sign a NDA, however that would be a separate document (so as to make the fact that they are agreeing to an NDA not a room rate clear) but they would also still need to make sure the hotel isn't making the customer sign the NDA under under duress or undue influence (like saying "sign this NDA or we will make sure no hotels in the town give you a room"), which would also invalidate a contract.

  4. Ian Entwistle

    Ranked #858 of 894 , you gotta wonder what the 36 that are considered worse are like then......

    1. Kerry Hoskin

      that's what I thought! Read the lowest ranked one if you want a laugh

    2. Andrew Norton

      well, I did an event (Sci fi con) in the Imperial hotel in 2000 (in fact, 14 years ago this coming weekend)

      Not only were hte hotel rooms badly cleaned, their facility rooms were not set up - they hadn't bothered. they 'lost' some of our event reservations (so Dave [Vader] Prowse had to get a room at the hotel next door), and to cap it off, the hotel staff started stealing from the [locked] dealers room overnight.

      We even changed the A1 standee sign on an easle at the front door to say 'welcome to the Imperial Hotel, prepare to be robbed'.

      Oh and my old mate Mike Sheard (RIP mate) said 'did the staff all go to Grange Hill?' before turning to Dave and saying 'you should choke the Manager, he makes me look like a competent admiral'.

      No wonder it stopped being used for party conferences. (and I was doubly irritated at having to stay up the full 72 hours of the event, having JUST flown back from two weeks of 20 hour shifts filming BattleBots in Vegas for Comedy Central - just meaning driving to Blackpool from Gatwick stopping home in Liverpool just long enough to swap suitcases)

      1. IglooDude

        Have an upvote, purely for the enjoyment you provided me in the form of being able to watch BattleBots.

        1. Andrew Norton

          Ta, did a 15th anniversary panel with some of the builders (including Grant Imhara) back at the end of August, and it brought back a lot of memories.

          There should be a writeup of it at Servo, and a video on Youtube soon.

  5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Striesand effect in 3...2...1....0

    Guess what Mr Hotel Owner, you business may well suffer because of this.

    I wonder what the 'Hotel Inspector' would make of this?

    1. Hazmoid

      Re: Striesand effect in 3...2...1....0

      My thoughts exactly. Trying to enforce good reviews is just going to end badly, unless you are willing to work with the client to ensure that any issues are resolved to both party's satisfaction. At the end of the day, bad reviews will cost because most people want a worry free/ enjoyable holiday/stay and anyone that takes the time to charge for bad reviews is obviously only worried about the bottom line and not about their customer service.

    2. dan1980

      Re: Striesand effect in 3...2...1....0

      Absolutely - Broadway Hotel, meet Barbra.

    3. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: Striesand effect in 3...2...1....0

      I wonder what the 'Hotel Inspector' would make of this?

      A shit TV program most likely.

    4. Rol Silver badge

      Re: Striesand effect in 3...2...1....0

      This hotel will most probably continue unflinchingly.

      Why?

      Well a certain element that frequent Blackpool begin by booking into an hotel, but seem to prefer sleeping in the gutter, A&E or a police cell towards the end of the night.

      Those that do make it back to their room are seemingly oblivious to its orientation and manage to empty all orifices very effectively in the bed provided, before clambering toward the toilet for a good sleep.

      These discerning customers are looking for the cheapest shit hole available and most likely lack the attention span to read any review that doesn't mention topless, lap dancing or happy hour.

      All of which is quite sad, as Blackpool is a lot more than just unfettered hedonism.

      Oh and while we're in Blackpool. "What does a Blackpool donkey get for lunch?"

      "Half an hour, the same as everyone else"

      Yes, yes, I'll move along.

  6. Lush At The Bar

    Sounds like a business plan

    1. Set up a hotel / B'n'B

    2. Charge low prices

    3. Have tucked away clause stating negative feedback is chargeable at x2.5 the room rate

    4. Never re-invest in the property or facilities

    5. Get negative feedback (the cheap room is now suddenly £136)

    6. Profit

    The chap on the news said he tried the tactic of saying to the owners that he wanted his money back or he would leave another negative review. The owners replied by stating they would charge another £100 to the credit card if he did. He should have transferred and cancelled that card and then really gone for it!

    There is the flip side of customers using the threat of leaving negative feedback unless they get a discount, so I must admit, this practice from both sides is a new one to me.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like a business plan

      Assuming (for a second) that the penalty is enforceable, does it say 'per bad review' ? If not then you could also report them to the Police for fraud/theft/whatever :)

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like a business plan

        I read on another site that the clause did, in fact, state 'per review' - and it was against the organiser - so if you organised a pensioners outing for 10 to Blackpool and two of them posted a negative review, the organiser would be charged £200.

        There's no way this is legal.

  7. stu 4

    Blackpool

    Frankly, to anyone who's ever had the misfortune of having stayed in Blackpool, this can come as no surprise.... the place is full of utter shit holes (in the crap hole which is Blackpool itself).

    I imagine it will make no difference to their business - 200 odd reviews on trip advisor already says it's a shit hole, but that'll make no difference to the bus loads of poor old dears that get shipped in daily thanks to the undoubted kickbacks they give to the tour operators.

    I'd love to see people like these owners taken down a peg or two though.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Blackpool

      I doubt it's so much "poor old dears" as "drunken fighty scumbags". Even so, Blackpool town council should be enforcing standards in hotels to protect / improve its reputation as a destination. If a hotel can't or won't improve, close it down.

    2. hoola

      Re: Blackpool

      And there are regular reports of small businesses just like this one being crucified by reviews on Tripdvisor to the point that the risk going out of business.

      It is far too easy to post malicious reviews on these sorts of sites that are then taken as gospel. The business impacted often has no recourse to get the review(s) removed. Yes, some may be warranted but given the current fad for posting malicous content on social media and other sites, often anonymously, the likelihood is that much is just that, malicious.

      Too many people appear to absolve themselves of any responsibility when they post on these types of websites. As other comments have eluded to, go to a cheap hotel and get what you pay for but don't then give it a bad review because it was not a 5* suite. Sure, if there are cockroaches running around and the place is genuinely filthy then it is valid.

      1. Robin

        Re: Blackpool

        "And there are regular reports of small businesses just like this one being crucified by reviews on Tripdvisor to the point that the risk going out of business."

        Sure, there'll always be people who complain. But reading how management deal with negative comments is a good indicator of the quality of service you're likely to receive.

    3. Sarah Balfour

      Re: Blackpool

      One word: - Rebellion. Shame it's making a bitter irony of the core ideals for which punk once stood these days. When I first learnt of its existence my immediate reaction was "Who the fuck thought that BLACKPOOL would be an ideal location for a festival - punk or otherwise…?!"

      There are very few places which vie with Blackpool for the title of Shitesville-on-Sea, but Wrexham and Rhyl are worse - even Llandudno is going the same way. I had the misfortune to stay in a B&B im Rhyl a few years ago, and I had a peridot and amethyst pendant half-inched from my room whilst I was in the shower (the bathrooms were down the landing, none of the rooms were en-suite). It had no value, other than sentimental (it was my nan's) - but that's hardly the point. The cleaner insisted I was mistaken, and I'd not left it in my room, but in the bathroom and one of the other guests had taken it, and she made a great show of going round knocking on doors but, whilst she was doing this, I'd clocked the position of the CCTV camera, the perfect location for staff to see all rooms at once - and keycards make theft feckloads easier; pile of blanks - oh, look, Room 8's gone for a shower, program a card, go to room take what you like, chuck card.

      I didn't bother reporting it because I'd been robbed twice prior to that; once from a room in a homeless hostel (the landlord refused to fix the door, or move me) and the second time I was mugged. In both instances, *I* was charged with falsifying a crime and wasting plod time - why…? I'm autistic and was very vague on details because my brain isn't wired like that and, I've found that, to many (NHS, plod, social services…) autistic = attention-seeking liar. I've been accused of faking crime, feigning illness - I HATE cop shops and A&Es - they TERRIFY me; I've been confined to bed for over 3 YEARS because I refuse to deal with the NHS, I simply don't trust it anymore. To be perfectly honest, I don't get humanity - I'm convinced I can't be human because I can't relate to anyone else. I won't regale you with the time GMP decided to kick me swede in at the royal infirmary in Manchester (I think it's a tale I've told at least once before, anyway). I have now decided I'd have to be dead before darkening the doors of either again!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    It's a serious abuse of the relationship between supplier and consumer of services and I really hope it is stamped on forthwith.

    Still, I'm pretty sure it will backfire badly, the internet being what it is, and that the Broadway Hotel in stunning Blackpool will quickly find that the customers' complaints are getting rather more publicity than they bargained on.

  9. msknight Silver badge
    WTF?

    Simples...

    Pay in cash. Or pre-pay credit card...

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Simples...

      If they take money from your CC, wouldn't you immediately go to the CC company and complain about an unauthorised payment?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Simples...

        >If they take money from your CC, wouldn't you immediately go to the CC company and complain about an unauthorised payment?

        The couple in the article have done just that, according the PM Programme on Radio4.

      2. Nigel 11

        Re: Simples...

        It's in their terms and conditions, so they can tell the credit card company that it's not unauthorized. You might be able to persuade the credit card company to do a chargeback, in which case the hotel would have to sue you it recoup its "fine" (and I can't see any court supporting them in that endeavour!)

        It's almost certainly unfair trading - contact trading standards

        It's possibly a crime - contact the police. Not fraud though, if it's in the Terms and Conditions and the hotel can prove that you accepted them. Freedom of speech? Human rights act? Murky waters. Still, hopefully the hotelier gets a talking to from the plod.

        It's an interesting legal question whether it is one transaction or two under the Consumer Credit Act. If one (room charge plus fine) it's over £100 and the credit card company is jointly liable. In that case I'd issue a small claims summons against the credit card company, on the basis that you do not believe that the hotel will stay in business long enough to get your £100 back by suing the hotel. Another reason is that the credit card company ought to take one look at it, refund your £100 plus court fee, and charge it back to the hotel, employing the fine print of its terms and conditions!

        Unfortunately if it is two transactions under the law, the CCA doesn't apply.

        1. Velv Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Simples...

          Just because it's in the T&Cs doesn't automatically make it accepted or acceptable. There are plenty of cases of unfair terms being thrown out by e courts, and this sounds likely to be one of them.

          I suspect the credit card company will agree and will have immediately refunded and chargeback'd. After all, while the hotel allegedly provided bad service to the guests, they played no part in facilitating the review. They are therefore attempting to charge for something they did not provide (aside from the irony of semantics).

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Simples...

          "It's in their terms and conditions, so they can tell the credit card company that it's not unauthorized. "

          The contract term is illegal, therefore the charge is unauthorised and the Credit Card companies are jointly and severally liable for any legal penalties.

          Understandably, they take a very dim view of merchants who try these sorts of games.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Simples...

          "Unfortunately if it is two transactions under the law, the CCA doesn't apply."

          There's no lower limit for card-not-present transactions, therefore If it was two separate transactions then it's covered and the offence ends up compounded because it wasn't separately authorised by the cardholder.

          Retaining credit card details is an explicit breach of Visa/Mastercard merchant agreements without jumping through a lot of hoops and I seriously doubt a fleapit hotel in Blackpool with cheap'n'nasty rooms is going to have the readies to invest into a fully compliant structure to Visa's satisfaction.

    2. Anthony 13
      Stop

      Re: Simples...

      Yes to cash, not so sure about that pre-pay card - I believe hotels typically pre-block* a chunk of money on the card - and if it is pre-paid card that's your cash they've theoretically got their hands on! Case in point, friend was recently travelling with a pre-paid card with relevant foreign currency on it - went to a swish hotel and they kept that block on the card long after he had checked out...he was then forced to use a card with a much less favourable exchange rate for everything else.

      * I'm sure there is a correct technical term for this!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Anthony 13 Re: Simples...

        It's called a pre-authorisation (or pre-auth). It allows for a select few business types (hire car companies are another one) to pre-authorise a set amount of funds on your card.

        Those funds are guaranteed to be available to that business for the duration of the pre-authorisation - which in turn means they are blocked from being accessed by another company, or the card holder until the authorisation expires. The business can then conduct a sale against those funds using the authorisation code given and the funds will be released.

        The issue is that many banks do not allow an easy method of releasing the pre-auth if it is not used. So often the pre-auth has to be left to expire naturally which takes 5~10days (or up to 28 for some international cards). So even if the business decides not to complete the sale (as you didn't charge any extras to your room for example) they may not have an easy way of allowing the funds to be unlocked.

        It would be great if there was a mandated electronic way of releasing all or part of a pre-auth the same way as the pre-auth was originally enacted, the specs didn't mandate it though.

        1. Curtis

          Re: @Anthony 13 Simples...

          There is a way to release the authorization. it's built into every terminal. The companies just choose not to release the authorizations because it's not THEIR money that's being held up.

          I used to routinely release pre-auths when I worked retail and for the 3 Letter ISP.

      2. FlatSpot

        Re: Simples...

        Correct they setup a retainer for incidentals, e.g you empty the mini bar but claim you had nothing on checkout, they can hold this against your card for weeks. I think for up to 6 weeks but can't be sure why I think that, could have been a conversation with a receptionist..

  10. Chris G Silver badge

    No riff raff

    I wonder if the owners name is Basil?

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: No riff raff

      No, Basil was funny. Kray, more like.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hail to the Streisand effect

    Now, on top of a bad review, you have also millions of people that never, ever, will consider becoming customers. Nice move and a great way of ending your business.

    Will they ever learn?

  12. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    No sympathy on either side.

    £35 a night for a double room including 2x breakfast and people are surprised it's not the Ritz?

    OTOH what a dumb thing for the Hotel to try, hellooooo Barbra!

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: No sympathy on either side.

      I've stayed in £35 places that offered clean linen, a not-uncomfortable bed, an absence of bed-bugs, functional furniture and equipment, and some breakfast that was edible. Sure, you shouldn't expect more than that, but often all you want is a place to sleep.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No sympathy on either side.

        Due to age and carelessness I read that as "some breakfast of bed bugs" - wasn't sure if that was all that attractive although I suppose it does kill two birds with one stone.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: No sympathy on either side.

          Strangely enough, my brain skipped a few words and I read "functional furniture and equipment that was edible", which is an interesting concept for a hotel.

          1. Random Coolzip
            Joke

            Re: No sympathy on either side.

            "functional furniture and equipment that was edible"

            Was this the Wonka Arms, then?

      2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Re: No sympathy on either side.

        Have you looked at the reviews? I suggest the ones on Laterooms as the trolls haven't waded in there yet.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: No sympathy on either side.

      £35 a night? There's a local pub that charges about a tenner for bunk bed in small room for four. Its quite nice if you can get into it, bare necessities and all that. Main problem is the beer for 4 comes to a bloody fortune when you dont have to drive....

  13. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Tripadvisor.

    Tripadvisor should flag up hotels with policies like this really clearly, it's a direct attack on their review system.

    Then of course we would all know it's a properly crap hotel and avoid it like the plague.

    It may be the one valid use of flashing text on a web page.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Tripadvisor.

      There is NEVER any excuse to do such a thing.

      This is 2014, not 1999 Microsoft Front Page happy clappy times!!!!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Tripadvisor.

        This is 2014

        So the warning would have to be fixed to the bottom of the screen using jquery in dark grey on top of light grey in a microscopic typeface but it only appears after you have started to infinitely scroll down through the reviews, continuously adjusting your mouse/pointer position as the scroll bar's active target area shrinks and shrinks and shrinks as the page fills up with rubbish and never stops loading anyway?

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: Tripadvisor.

          Well yeah, because some thing has to keep the high street solicitors in business when whipclash claims are banned.

    2. Trainee grumpy old ****
      WTF?

      Re: Tripadvisor.

      >> Tripadvisor should flag up hotels with policies like this really clearly,

      And how are Tripadvisor going to know that they have such a policy?

  14. CraPo

    "Stunning"

    Like cattle in an abatoir

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Tripadvisor

    Agreed. In fact they should blacklist them for that reason.

    Free speech and all that, certainly this ranks up there with "speculative invoicing" ie copyright Nazis who charge £600 "fines" for downloading something and random cold callers doing the same thing.

    They know they will never make it stick in court but the fools who pay the fine make it worthwhile, same as with spam emails and 419 scams.

    0.001% of 100M emails = a lot of cu$tomers.

  16. DrXym Silver badge

    The 1* review wasn't out of place

    I looked through the bad reviews last night and they ran back months. This place has been a filthy kip for a long time. Why they'd want to charge for one bad review I don't know but it'll just cement this place's reputation as a hovel.

    It's not the first Blackpool hotel to be slagged off and I doubt it'll be the last. A few months back another place was finally shut down after years of complaints - health and safety discovered the roof was held in place with a scaffolding pole after a botched loft conversion.

    Blackpool is a tourist trap and consequently enjoys a fresh footfall of undiscerning visitors who ensure even the most squalid hotels are filled. The local council should force hotels to meet some minimum standard of cleaniness, safety and service or close down.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The 1* review wasn't out of place

      Why they'd want to charge for one bad review I don't

      I'd guess they can identify very few of the reviewers from the reviews - there was presumably something identifiable about this one (room number, date, some occurrence) that switched on a very dim light-bulb in their head and made them think they could stick their charge on this one. Bad idea.

  17. Frankee Llonnygog

    Can someone check the underside of table 3?

    I nailed a kipper there in 1948. It was still there last year

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can someone check the underside of table 3?

      Prawns(1) in the curtain hem is a good wheeze, apparently(2), if you really feel the need to retaliate before leaving (and you happen to have some prawns handy).

      Anon., because.

      1) == shrimp, for our USAin readers

      2) How the hell do I know |this stuff, when I can't remember where I put the car keys?

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Can someone check the underside of table 3?

      A kipper that would take a nail - that's too posh for me!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can someone check the underside of table 3?

        I have forgotten a can of surströmming once - or maybe twice.

  18. codejunky Silver badge

    hmm

    Surely the freedom to honestly express an opinion of a product/service you have bought is a requirement of capitalism. If you are willing to have reviews about your product/service then you must accept the honest comment regardless of good or bad and without dishing out penalties.

    This is where the regulators need to step in and force repayments of any such fines with a warning of prosecution if this attack on consumer rights is ever attempted again.

    1. Chad H.

      Re: hmm

      More key to Capitalism however is the "Freedom of contract" to basically be able to agree to anything at all.

      However, in this case, there are regulations that limit that "freedom" - and rightfully so.

  19. Simon Watson

    Unfair Contract Terms

    This falls squarely under the unfair contract terms act, as it clearly skews the relationship between supplier and consumer of the service in an unfair and unexpected manner.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Unfair Contract Terms

      That's the provisional view of the relevant local Trading Standards office, so the signs are good that sanity will prevail.

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Unfair Contract Terms

      It does seem a little more pointed than a simple NDA.

  20. WraithCadmus
    Unhappy

    May it sink into the sea

    Stopping bad reviews seems like it's going to cause more problems than fixing what's wrong with the hotel.

    I have lovely memories from my youth of Blackpool, as such I know I can never return. It would be too painful.

  21. John Savard Silver badge

    The credit company didn't receive a signed authorization from them to hand over the money to the hotel, so how could this possibly have happened? Clearly the system where retailers are trusted to only put actually purchased items on invoices to credit card companies is flawed - or, at least, the particular hotel in question should lose its ability to accept credit card payments in future.

    Fine print in contracts is not sufficient authorization to charge a credit card - instead, charges to a credit card should be under the total control of the cardholder, just like taking cash out of one's wallet and handing it to the retailer.

    1. Nigel 11

      Hotels have license to charge a guest's card for abnormal expenses that the guest causes. Things like fouling the bed or trashing the room. It'll be in the terms and conditions, and it is probably sanctioned by common law in any case.

      I hope it is proved that this is stretching that license well past breaking point.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Hotels can do some strange things with credit cards. A few years ago my wife and I had a very pleasant stay and dinner for New Year at a small hotel. The next morning my credit (actually debit) card was, embarrassingly, declined. My wife was willing to pay but the manager wouldn't hear of it. He rummaged in a drawer for a special code, entered that into the POS terminal, and my card was accepted. The correct amount was duly debited from my bank account.

        It was only a couple of days later that I realised why the card had been declined. It had expired on Dec 31st, and of course I was paying on Jan 1st. None of us had noticed at the time. Entirely my fault, and everything was above board, but I'm still surprised that a merchant was able to override an expired card.

    2. fajensen Silver badge

      The credit company didn't receive a signed authorization from them to hand over the money to the hotel, so how could this possibly have happened?

      The actual credit card number is *the* authorisation to charge the card; the money is only "handed over" 2-3 moths later when the customer has verified the bill and agreed to the charges by him/her paying the credit card provider.

      The "signed authorisation" is another thing: It is a piece of paper with the card number, the name of the card holder and card holder's signature. This authorises continued charging of the card and is quite hard to get out of. The best way is a certified letter, complaint letter to credit-card company, then report the card stolen so it gets cancelled for sure.

      The system is somewhat flawed that, in the interest of expediency & convenience, the card number is "enough", but, the credit card providers are not handing out any money of their own and they are quite draconian in dealing with abuse: "Too much" trouble with a business and the credit card facility is withdrawn, there is A.F.I.K. no restoration procedure and the blacklist is shared with the other card providers, so, that business is fucked, basically.

      So, in this case, sure, they can go right ahead and charge 100 quid to the card, but, they only get this money after 2-3 months, when the customer has paid the bill! The customer complained, they will not get any money at all until the dispute is resolved.

      The first step by the card provider will be to request the vendors proof of customer authorisation for the charge (signature on card receipt or the pin code entry). If the vendor does not have this, it have to prove that the charge was normal practice & justified - raiding of the minibar & nicking the towels would do it - random charge for complaining on internet site ... probably not. If I was that business, I would claim that "it was a mistake by staff" and revert the charge immediately. Maybe nothing more will come off it then.

      They sound like real idiots at that place. Or maybe they are just grabbing whatever they can on the way out!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What next £100 'charge' if you do not give a glowing review or how about another £100 if you do not eat at a restaurant of their choosing and another £100 (recurring) if you do not re-book within 12 months creating a nice future revenue stream?

    1. BongoJoe

      The marketing division of Ryan Air may be sending you a Christmas hamper for that suggestion.

  23. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Of course there was an alternative ...

    which would have been to offer discounts for positive reviews.

    If your first reach is the stick, expect to get beaten, as my Grandad would have said if he'd made it up.

  24. a well wisher

    "There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary"

    And this could be the hotels obit !

  25. Chad H.

    I really can't see this holding up. Lord Denning MR indicated in "Shoe Lane Parking" that the more onerous the condition, the more the person trying to impose the condition has to do to bring the persons attention to it (the "Red Hand Test").

    Plus I'm sure there's something else in legislation about onerous terms in consumer contracts, but I've conveniently forgotten it.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Denning

      occasionally got it right, but overall was a complete arse

  26. AndyFl

    Visits

    What are the odds that both Trading Standards and Environmental Health will visit before the end of the week?

  27. Quotes
    Paris Hilton

    Free Speech has not been censored

    Most of the reporting of this issue (Reg included) seems to suggest that this incident has impacted on Free Speech. Well firstly nothing has been censored, the comments they made have been published for all to see. Secondly, they were not prevented from posting a negative review, only charged for it.

    The reporting should focus on Unfair Terms and Legal Small Print. Free Speech is not the issue.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Free Speech has not been censored

      I believe the correct phrase is "chilling effect". Go look it up.

      1. Quotes

        Re: Free Speech has not been censored

        Go look it up yourself.

        https://www.google.com/search?q=chilling+effect

        There was no chilling effect... the customers were at complete liberty to post negative reviews without the threat of legal sanction. The unfair trading term that mentions the financial penalty more likely infers tacit approval of negative reviews.

        But how would they go about legal sanctions if they charged the customer for the privilege of speaking their mind? That would be a right pickle.

  28. Anonymous Coward 101

    As Morrissey once said...

    Trudging slowly over wet sand

    Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen

    This is the coastal town

    That they forgot to close down

    Armageddon - come Armageddon!

    Come, Armageddon! Come!

    Everyday is like Sunday

    Everyday is silent and grey

    Hide on the promenade

    Etch a postcard :

    "How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here"

    In the seaside town

    That they forgot to bomb

    Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

    1. Spleen

      Re: As Morrissey once said...

      Ah, what a lyrical genius that Morrissey is. To rip off Betjeman. Badly.

  29. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    It gets worse !

    Not only have the hotel backtracked (so much for principles and integrity) but also left the fate of the initial £100 fine in doubt ... I can't tell from reading this article.

    linky

    A hotel that "fined" a couple £100 for leaving critical comments on a travel review website will stop making the charge, trading standards officers say.

    Tony and Jan Jenkinson posted the negative comment on Trip Advisor after being unimpressed with the one night they spent at the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool.

    The couple, from Whitehaven, later had £100 charged to their credit card.

    The hotel manager has not been available for comment.

    Blackpool Trading Standards, which has been investigating, said it has now spoken to the hotel's management, who have agreed not to levy these fines in the future.

  30. This post has been deleted by its author

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfair terms

    Personally I would have filed a claim against them at www.moneyclaim.gov.uk under the The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2083/made

    You would be amazed at how quickly people can sort these things out when they get court paperwork through

  32. Zog The Undeniable

    Streisand Effect

    So they're trying to suppress bad reviews? What's the betting that they will now get an avalanche of negative reviews from people who have never been to Blackpool, less stayed in that particular hotel?

    They're going to have to change the name of the business, and quickly.

  33. David Gosnell

    Couple of things

    1) The hotel's up for sale, apparently turning over £160,000 (1600 bad reviews) a year

    2) Don't, for the love of your deity of choice, try to access the most recent version of their dead website via the Wayback Machine. NSFW, seriously.

  34. oomwat

    The damage is already done!

    Try a google search for 'Broadway Hotel Blackpool' ... they're pretty much done-for really :)

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: The damage is already done!

      Those are some savage reviews... and not troll reviews in light of this recent national press notice.

      What's even worse, is that many were threatening to contact Environmental Health, and at least one or two must have done this so what is Blackpool council's response to this?

    2. Gary Moore's Plectrum

      Re: The damage is already done!

      Searching for 'dirty stinking hovel' achieves the same results with fewer keypresses.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After the first debit they should have phoned up the card provider and reported their card stolen, putting a block on it.

  36. spacecadet66

    Here's a crazy idea: instead of trying to silence your critics, how about investing your time and money in making your hotel less awful?

    I know, it sounds like work.

  37. Anonymous IV

    Self-certified as 3-star

    I haven't seen it mentioned yet, but the Broadway Hotel self-certifies itself (tautology?) as being of a 3-star standard. The fact that this is possible says a lot about the tourist industry.

    Also the fact that there are only ten hotels lower down in the ranking than that hotel, since those at the very bottom of the list are those whom nobody has ever rated.

    There is a notorious guest-house in Beverley which self-certifies itself as 4-star, and has filched the 4-star logos from Visit England and stuck "Self Certified" at the top of each on its website. On a good day, it might be assessed as 2-star. Rather better than the Broadway Hotel, though!

  38. Dan Paul

    I've stayed in even less costly places...

    Years ago when I was dating my wife, we used to frequent a small no tell motel on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Tonawanda,NY. The place was old and tired but cost only USD $8.72 for all the time we needed it for (4 hrs min stay). Overnight was twice that amount.

    We got a very clean room, no bugs, anti-septic really, a working TV with full cable (only watched after we had fun), privacy, quiet, clean shower, towels, sheets and bedspread and almost new mattresses. No cameras or suspicious mirrors. An older quite non judgemental German woman owned the place and lived there with her German Shepherds. Never had a bad comment about the place.

    For a couple of junior college kids it was great "Bang for your buck" after dinner and drinks.

    Too bad the place is gone now but sure sounds like that Blackpool Hotel was more like the Cesspool Hotel comparatively.

  39. Mark Exclamation

    Another angle...

    An angle not yet mentioned, but since when can a private entity "fine" anyone for anything? Only courts have the legal ability to "fine". If it's called a "charge", then you have to have provided something in return, either goods or a service. Since the "service" had already been paid for, the extra charge is fraudulent.

  40. Alain

    They'll supposedly get a refund

    Quote from the latest info found on the BBC site: ``The Blackpool hotel has now said it will refund the money and vowed to improve the facilities.''

    See here for more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-30111525 such as the alleged reason why they had this 'fine' policy in the first place. Funny.

  41. knav2013

    tripadvisor forum posts

    Tripadvisor censors Forum posts..content that they don't see as favorable towards their "destination experts" or the businesses that they promote. e.g. HotelsClick.com

    Check out: http://wp.me/P5xT7G-j

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