Can you get sued for leaving a bad review on Trip Advisor or Yelp? (+video)

For more than a decade, disgruntled customers have been unleashing their frustration over bad customer experiences on review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, often damaging a restaurant or hotel's business in the process.

Now, businesses are fighting back.

Like the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool, England, which charged one couple an extra 100 ($156) after they left a negative review of the hotel on TripAdvisor, calling it a filthy, dirty rotten stinking hovel." (After the couple complained to authorities, their fine will be refunded, according to reports.)

And Hotel Quebec, which sued a guest for $95,000 after he wrote a review on TripAdvisor saying he was bitten by bed bugs there.

And Dietz Development LLC, a Fairfax, Va.-based contractor owned by Christopher Dietz, who sued a negative Yelp reviewer for $750,000 in a defamation suit.

"Businesses that generate income from Yelp and TripAdvisor will be more and more aggressive about how they protect themselves," James Hunt, an attorney with Slater, Tenaglia, Fritz & Hunt in New York, told Main Street earlier this year.

"The rapid growth of online reviews has certainly led to an increase in lawsuits against reviewers," added Josh King, general counsel for legal marketplace Avvo.com, which features reviews of attorneys by clients.

That's because sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are increasingly important to the business of many establishments like hotels and restaurants. TripAdvisor (and its 24 subsidiary sites) get 315 million visitors per month, and the company has more than 190 million reviews covering more than 4.4 million accommodations, restaurants, and attractions, according to the company's website.

Yelp is also a hugely popular review site, with 139 million monthly visitors and 33 million reviews written each month.

Several studies have underscored the importance of review sites to the businesses they review. One study showed that a one star increase in rating on Yelp yields a 5-9 percent increase in revenue for a company. In other words, positive reviews are important to a company's reputation and success - and negative reviews can be very damaging.

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Can you get sued for leaving a bad review on Trip Advisor or Yelp? (+video)

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