The British Hospitality Association has approached TripAdvisor to raise concerns voiced by hotel and restaurants over alleged false reviews appearing on the reviews site.

BHA deputy chief executive Martin Couchman is in talks with TripAdvisor over the issue.

He said:
 “People threatening restaurants and hotels with bad TripAdvisor reviews to extort freebies is a problem which has been growing.

“While it’s very difficult to put an exact figure on how widespread the problem is, it is clear that there is a small minority of online reviewers who are either directly or indirectly blackmailing hotels and restaurants for their own gain.”

He added: “Even just one or two bad reviews can have huge consequences for a business’s reputation.

“For example, people may attempt to blackmail during the meal. While it can be difficult to prove that somebody has held your business to ransom in this way, we would advise that business owners do not respond – or make free offers – to reviewers they suspect are malicious.”

He urged hospitality business owners to contact TripAdvisor or the BHA if they are concerned about malicious reviews.

A TripAdvisor spokesman told MailOnline: “Allegations of blackmail or threatening behaviour by guests against property owners are taken very seriously.

“If an owner experiences this, we urge them to contact us immediately. We have a way for owners to proactively report threats before a corresponding review is submitted.

“Immediate reporting of blackmail threats, via our Management Centre, which every owner can register on for free, can help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site.”