Be careful how honest you are when leaving a review because you could end up with a lot more than just an unhappy hotelier; you could be sued.
At least that’s the case in Thailand where a woman is facing legal action for giving a hotel a negative review, in the second case of a displeased customer being sued by a resort in Thailand.
A guest named Khing left a review on her deluxe room at the Ozone Hotel located near Khao Yai National Park which indicated she was less than satisfied with her time there.
The hotel’s close proximity to Bangkok means tourists frequently visit the mountain park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was a filming location for the Leonardo Dicaprio film The Beach.
Khing gave the hotel a 6/10 in her Agoda review, which has since been taken down.
She described the resort as being “too expensive” and that it fell short of her expectations.
“The room did not look new as it was advertised,” Khing wrote, adding that it was dirty and describing the hotel staff as unhelpful.
“I could not call reception from my room, so I had to walk down by myself. Night-shift staffers were not so helpful, but some were welcoming.”
Khing also felt let down by the forested mountain view.
“The room’s view was just okay,” she said, comparing it to other resorts in the area.
Initially, the resort posted a short apologetic response to Khing’s review, but management seemed to have a change of heart when they sent her an official notice with instructions to delete the review and publish a public apology in five Thai-language newspapers for seven days, or pay compensation.
“She was told by the resort to delete the review comment immediately, or else she must pay the resort 50,000 Thai baht ($2,075) per day in compensation and 3 million ($124,500) for the damages,” her lawyer wrote, adding that if she didn’t pay, she’d face a criminal lawsuit.
The case is currently pending and whether Khing will comply with the demands or go to court is unclear.
In Thailand, defamation is a criminal rather than civil matter and even if the criticism is fair or truthful, it does not necessarily protect someone from legal action.
A similar incident occurred in 2020, when another hotel threatened legal action against an American tourist.
The tourist, Wesley Barnes, stayed on the Thai holiday island of Koh Chang, and left repeated negative reviews about the hotel on TripAdvisor and other travel websites, including one alluding to ‘slavery’ occurring at the hotel.
Barnes was arrested following a defamation complaint and spent a weekend in jail. The charges were dropped after Barns issued a public apology where he said he got ‘carried away.’
TripAdvisor went one step further and posted a warning on its page for the hotel.
“This hotel or individuals associated with this hotel filed criminal charges against a Tripadvisor user in relation to the traveller writing and posting online reviews,” the warning began.
“The reviewer spent time in jail as a result. Tripadvisor serves its users best when travellers are free to share their opinions and experiences on our platform – both positive and negative.
“The hotel may have been exercising its legal rights under local law, however, it is our role to inform you so you may take this into consideration when researching your travel plans,” the warning concluded.
The issue of hotel reactions to negative reviews arose discussion around criticism and free speech in Thailand.
Deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, Phil Robertson, spoke to VICE World news recently, where he highlighted the problematic nature of criminal defamation law in Thailand.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for this resort owners’ outrageous and unacceptable effort to censor a critical review of their site,” he said.
“Sadly, only when resort owners like this one understand that their business will suffer because of such actions, will they finally desist from them.”
Featured image: ozonekhaoyai.com