Tony and Jan Jenkinson of Whitehaven, U.K. stayed one night at the Broadway Hotel in fading resort town Blackpool, and were less than impressed with their lodgings. As many disgruntled customers do, they took to the Internet to express their displeasure, calling the hotel a “rotten stinking hovel.”

Trip Advisor

What they presumably were not counting on was checking their credit card statement a while later to find that an extra $160 had been charged by staff at the Broadway.

Bad Trip Advisor review: Hotel policy

The couple were told that it was hotel policy to charge customers who left bad reviews. Although the manager was unavailable for comment, a hotel booking document reads:

“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.”

Mr Jenkinson, 63, admitted that his wife had signed the document without reading the small print because she didn’t have her glasses on. He maintained that he would be fighting the added charge, and said that: “Annoyed isn’t strong enough for how I feel about this, what happened to freedom of speech? Everybody we have spoken to says they (the hotel) are not allowed to do this.”

An ongoing investigation

U.K. Trading Standards are investigating a possible breach of unfair trading practice regulations. John Greenbank, north trading standards area manager, said: “I have 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.”

Councillor John McCreesh, cabinet member for trading standards, defended the right of customers to leave bad reviews, and called for a hotel owners to “focus on getting their service right rather than shutting down aggrieved customers with threats and fines.”

The Jenkinsons are seeking a refund through their credit card company.