No one could accuse Duncan Bannatyne on Burn’s Night (or, indeed, any other night) of being a ‘wee sleekit cowrin tim’rous beastie’… in his business dealings, although some may take the view that he can be a beastie on Twitter: here and here.
Bannatyne, or Duncan Genocide as Harry & Paul parody him on Dragon’s Den, has another fight on his hands and on this issue I have some sympathy for him.
Duncan Bannatyne considers legal action against TripAdvisor
The Firm reports: “Dragon’s Den panellist and fitness and leisure entrepreneur, Duncan Bannatyne has launched an outspoken attack on the website TripAdvisor, which he described as ‘despicable and cowardly’. Bannatyne said he was considering spearheading a campaign against the website, as well as suing it, after it compared one of his own hotels to Fawlty Towers.”
Briefly: Tripadviser (40 million hits a month) allows people to publish reviews of hotels etc on their website. Itb is clearly influential. Bannatyne took exception to a review which compared one of his hotels to Fawlty Towers and is reported as stating…” TripAdvisor, he said, should commit to removing fraudulent or defamatory reviews, rather than simply giving management a right of reply.”
As the UKSC Blog notes in their review of The Supreme Court in 2010: Joseph v Spiller  UKSC 53. Another first: this time the Supreme Court’s first defamation case. The Court considered and expanded the scope of the “fair comment in the public interest” defence – now re-named by Lord Phillips as the “honest comment” defence.
The Drum contacted Campbell Deane, partner in law firm Bannatyne Kirkwood France & Co (no relation) to get a legal perspective on the situation – worth a read.
Bannatyne may well have a more difficult task in defamation. There are dangers, however, with successful businesses and disgruntled customers. We do have a tall poppy syndrome in this country – it is a national sport to build people up only to cut them down and few successful organisations will have a 100% satisfaction rate. A bad review can be damaging – and while a review may be ‘honest’ under the law of defamation, it may well be written with other motives – a refund for example. While I prefer to pay people to go to the gym for me these days so that I can keep fatuous New Year resolutions, I am told by friends that Bannatyne’s gyms are good so I can sympathise with Bannatyne and his irritation here. Bannatyne does a lot of good work for Charity, is resident in Britain and he hasn’t built up solid businesses by providing a bad service. I might find him abrasive on Twitter but he has been good value in the past on Dragon’s Den – if a bit too direct for some of the contenders. Publicity can be unfair sometimes.
There are, however, dangers in taking successful websites on – The Streisand effect; comment on twitter et al, some accurate, some perhaps not so, can have a far more damaging effect. At least Tripadvisor appears to give a right of reply unlike the Solicitorsfromhell website which, if I recall, offered to remove reviews for money!
Sometimes, discretion be the better part of valour….or, indeed… the old aphorism…never apologise, never explain may be valuable on occasion.