Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What Price An Opinion?

I was absolutely incensed to see, when I turned on the TV this morning for a spot of news, a couple being interviewed after being ‘charged’ for writing a review about a hotel in which they had stayed.

The review in question had been somewhat negative, but listening to the report, it would appear rightly so. The couple had experienced a number of problems with their room, which they had reported, but had not been solved. Disgruntled with their stay, they consequently wrote a review commenting on their experience, which I believe they were perfectly within their rights to do. OK, so they didn’t pay a premium rate for their room, but it should still have been fit for purpose.

However, the hotel still had their credit card details from when they had paid for their room, and apparently helped themselves to a payment of £100 in light of the comments the couple had made. They justified this by saying it was in the small print (very small print as it appears) that anyone writing a bad review would incur a charge. How ludicrous!

This case throws up a fair number of important issues.
We shouldn't pay for others shortcomings

Firstly, I believe that as consumers, we should all have the right to speak as we find. If we receive bad service or shoddy goods, we should firstly exercise our right to complain to those concerned (as the couple in this case did), but if our grievances aren’t resolved, we should be able to warn others of the shortcomings, to prevent others having to repeat our bad experience.

A second, connected point is that we should all be able to exercise freedom of speech, with the exception of the use of abusive or threatening comments.

Thirdly, it should not be, to my mind, legal for anyone to take further payments from a debit/credit card just because they were once given the details as part of a separate transaction. I believe this is just another breach of consumer rights.

Of course, this whole subject is close to my heart, as I regularly write reviews on goods and services – good and bad – and believe I offer a service in doing just that! If businesses want to avoid getting bad reviews, they should, quite simply, ensure that they maintain basic standards and that the goods and services that they supply meet all health and safety regulations, and are fit for purpose. Where mistakes are made or standards are lacking, they should endeavour to rectify the situation promptly and with good grace – this can turn a potentially bad review into a more positive one!

On the other side of the coin, it would appear that some people threaten to write damning reviews unless they are offered a discounted price. This is equally wrong. Just as we expect to be treated respectfully by companies, we should act responsibly as customers. Reviews need to be truthful in order to be helpful to others, sticking to the facts and be made in order to put across a fair point, as opposed to seeking personal gain.

Reviews of products and services can be beneficial to all – potential customers and businesses alike – so let’s protect our right to speak out when things are wrong, without the threat of being ‘fined’ for so doing, as this just rubs salt into already painful wounds!

What do you think?

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