Agoda clarifies reviewer privacy rules

CHIANG RAI, 19 January 2022: Some Thai hoteliers have a short fuse when guests post a scathing review of their stay experience on popular booking sites.

They hit back with threats demanding the reviewer apologise and delete the offending post or face arrest for criminal defamation.

Photo: Agoda.

In the most recent case widely reported in media across Asia earlier this month, a guest at a Khai Yai hotel posted a negative review following a stay in mid-December. The hotel management demanded the guest delete the offending review on Agoda.com and apologise publicly by taking out advertising for five consecutive days in five Thai newspapers. It also demanded THB50,000 compensation for the daily loss of business for every day the review remained online and THB3 million in damages.  

Threatening reviewers with criminal and civil proceedings is possible in Thailand due to the country’s legal definition of what constitutes defamation. The first case filed by a hotel on Chang Island resulted in an arrest and an apology for a negative review posted on Tripadvisor. The second involving a hotel in Khao Yai 150 km northeast of Bangkok, is now in the hands of lawyers; the outcome is pending. But it should worry genuine reviewers who sincerely pen their observations and experiences when they stay in hotels in Thailand. They may assume the booking site will protect their right to voice an opinion, and ID information will remain confidential. Really?

We asked Agoda.com to clarify how the reviewer’s identity and contact information filtered through to the GM of the Khao Yai property? Even though the review was deleted, it was still floating around Google archives for a week or more after the hotel ordered the reviewer to remove the post. The review in question and the writer’s ID popped up through a simple online search when we filed a report on 11 January. (See report: https://www.ttrweekly.com/site/2022/01/is-the-privacy-of-hotel-reviewers-protected/)

Reviewers should be aware there is always the potential for retaliation by a few sensitive Thai hoteliers who cannot take a negative review on the chin, learn from it and move on. Here’s Agoda’s take on its privacy rule and procedures that are designed to protect reviewers and ensure reviews are genuine and fair.

Agoda’s take on reviewer privacy

“At Agoda, we continuously work towards improving travellers’ overall experience, and we believe that access to transparent, authentic, and honest guest reviews are absolutely essential to this process.

“Reviews posted on our platform serve the dual function of allowing travellers to make informed decisions on places to stay and providing our accommodation partners with constructive feedback on their guest’s experience. Reviews are a trusted source for many people’s booking journey.

“For this reason, Agoda reviews are not anonymous, and all our reviews are verified using the guest’s Booking ID to ensure accountability. Only the name used for the booking is used to accompany the review, and this cannot be changed. 

“These details are publicly available on the review platform, along with the guest’s information, including room type and month and year of stay. Once reviews are posted, users are not able to modify or delete them directly.

“However, as in this instance (Khao Yai case), when we were contacted by the guest regarding deleting reviews, we follow standard procedure, responding to the reviewer to advise on the status of the deletion process, and with a follow-up email to confirm the removal.

“In this instance, the guest in question contacted us regarding the removal of the review on 30 December 2021. As is standard procedure, the reviewer was notified that the post would be removed and was sent a confirmation email prior to deletion. In this instance, we responded to her message on 3 January 2022, and the post was removed on 4 January 2022. An email re-confirmation was sent to the guest on 8 January 2022.

“Hotel partners are alerted to new reviews via our YCS channel, and the information shared only includes the guest’s name and their booking ID. We do not share any other personal contact information.

“We are constantly reviewing our processes and guidelines to improve our capabilities and will conduct a thorough internal review to assess if there are processes that we could improve.”