An online troll who posted a series of fake negative reviews about a restaurant on TripAdvisor has been ordered to pay £7,455 to the owner.
During his campaign of hate, Martin Stewart Potts wrote ten false reviews about Bispham Kitchen in Blackpool, Lancs., with one claiming the food made him and his family sick.
He also made fake accusations that the restaurant’s haddock was in fact “catfish” and that their chips were “fried in burnt oil”.
But Potts bit off more than he could chew when restaurant owner Steve Hoddy, a trained lawyer with a first-class degree from Cambridge, took him to court.
During a hearing at Manchester County Court a judge ruled that Potts was guilty of malicious falsehood, and he was ordered to pay thousands of pounds in compensation to Hoddy.
Speaking after the verdict, Hoddy said that trolling had become “rife” and called fake reviewers a “scourge of modern society”.
He said: “Online trolling is rife and one of the big problems nowadays. It’s becoming a pandemic of its own. It wrecks businesses.
I have owned Bispham Kitchen for 44 years now and my business is robust enough to withstand this sort of nonsense.
“But particularly for hotels it is a real problem, because people really do take note of hotel reviews because they are spending larger sums of money.
“It is the scourge of modern society.”
Hoddy said that the ten malicious reviews were written in October and November 2018.
He said: “He used eight different usernames. The first said, ‘owner glares at you weirdly when you are trying to eat your fish and chips, not a nice experience.'”
“I don’t normally reply to reviews, but I did to this one.
“I said ‘I can assure you the owner of Bispham Kitchen is the most charming delightful person you could possibly hope to meet and he would not dream of glaring weirdly at his customers’.”
However, the sarcastic response provoked a stream of negative ratings for Hoddy’s chain of businesses.
He said: “It was a whole catalogue of bogus reviews.