UPDATED: Hotel blasted for charging couple £100 for bad review ‘agree to refund’

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A couple “fined” by a hotel after they wrote a damning review about it are to be given a refund, a town hall boss has claimed.

Tony and Jan Jenkinson said they were charged an extra £100 after describing the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool as a “filthy, stinking hovel” on TripAdvisor.

Broadway Hotel, Burlington Road West.

Broadway Hotel, Burlington Road West.

When they queried the charge, they were said to have been told it was incurred under a “no bad review policy” included in the terms and conditions.

Blackpool Council said today that they understood that the hotel will reimburse them, as well as scrapping the policy.

Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member responsible for public protection at the local authorty, said: “Our trading standards team became aware of this issue last week.

“As a result, we have spoken to the hotel owner and asked for the policy to be removed, which has now happened.

“This is a unique case and not one that we have come across before.”

The couple stopped at the hotel on their way to Oxford, paying £36 for a night in a double room.

But they claimed they encountered a string of problems, prompting Mr Jenkinson to post the review on August 30 in which he branded the hotel a “filthy, dirty, rotten, stinking hovel”.

The Jenkinsons said they discovered the £100 charge on their credit card statement a few days later.

The hotel’s policy said: “Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review.”

The couple, from Whitehaven in Cumbria, had been attempting to recoup the money through their credit card company.

They complained to Cumbria trading standards officials, who passed the matter to counterparts in Blackpool.

John Greenbank, trading standards area manager north, said: “I have worked for trading standards for many years and have never seen anything like this.

“The hotel management clearly thinks that they have come up with a novel way to prevent bad reviews. However, we believe this could be deemed an unfair trading practice.

“Other customers depend upon it. Hotel owners should focus on getting their service right rather than shutting down aggrieved customers with threats and fines.

“People should have the right to vent their disappointment if a hotel stay did not meet their expectations and should not be prevented from having their say.”

TripAdvisor spokesman James Kay said: “While, thankfully, such instances are very rare, it is completely against the spirit and policies of our site for any business owner to attempt to bully or intimidate reviewers who have had a negative experience.

“Where we find evidence of a business doing so, we will take action to protect the integrity of our site.”

The policy to charge the couple in the first place was today criticised by Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group Stay Blackpool.

She said: “It doesn’t seem a very moral thing to do and I have never heard of anything like this before.

“You can’t go around charging people if they have had a bad stay and given you a bad review.”

However, Mrs Smith said hoteliers were frequently unfairly criticised on Trip Adviser.

She said: “We have had people phoning up and asking for a discount. When we refuse they threaten to give us a bad review on Trip Advisor. Something like that can have a serious effect on a business.”

Mr Jenkinson has posted a video of the hotel room at the Broadway on his own Facebook page.

Mr and Mrs Jenkinson say they choose the hotel because it had a car park and paid £36 for the double room.

But Mr Jenkinson, 63, a retired van driver, said wallpaper was peeling from the walls of the room, the shower was “filthy” and there wasw no water in the morning.

He also claims the breakfast was “inedible” with undercooked bacon and the furniture was falling apart.

He told the BBC: “We wrote our (review) piece and then three or four days later Jan got a debit card bill through which they had taken £36 off, and four or five days later they took another £100.

“I phoned them (the hotel) up and asked why and they said it was because we left a bad review.

“I said what happens if we write a good review, will you give me £100? And he said it doesn’t work like that.”

Mrs Jenkinson added: “The small print was so small it was practically impossible to see it.”

The couple’s local councillor in Cumbria John McCreesh said: “Hotel owners should focus on getting their service right rather than

shutting down aggrieved customers with threats and fines.

“People should have the right to vent their disappointment if a hotel stay did not meet their expectations and should not be prevented from having their say.”

Cumbria County Council Trading Standards officer John Greenbank, said: “I’ve worked for Trading Standards for many years and have never seen anything like this.

“The hotel management clearly thinks they have come up with a novel way to prevent bad reviews, however, we believe this could be deemed an unfair trading practice.”

Currently, 174 visitors to Trip Advisor have rated the Broadway “poor” or “terrible”.

Hotel staff said the manager was unavailable for comment.