Customer charged $350 after leaving negative review of Indiana hotel, lawsuit alleges

Hotel charges Indiana couple $350 for bad review

Katrina Arthur and her husband went for a weekend getaway at the Abbey Inn and Suites in IN previous year, but they say they found the room smelly and dirty as soon as they checked in.

The couple described their experience at the hotel as far below the standards they were expecting, with unclean bedding, poor water pressure, air-conditioning that didn't work, and a pervasive sewage smell throughout the room. The number provided "automatically went to a lawyer's or something weird like that". "You could tell the people that maybe had stayed before us had left their items, there was like used shampoos, used soaps".

It's when Mrs Arthur received an email from the hotel asking from an online review that she gave some "honest" feedback.

"I never got any paperwork", said Arthur.

Not quite an apology, the Abbey Inn allegedly threatened legal action and charged her $350, citing a policy they had that allowed them to charge people for bad write-ups.

"There's nothing wrong with being truthful", Arthur said to WRTV.

"It was a nightmare", Arthur said, ABC affiliated Eyewitness News reported.

The Office of the Attorney General is suing the management company that operates the hotel.

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Mrs Arthur said the letter frightened her so she took the review down. "I was very angry they had done that".

The lawsuit claimed the policy, reportedly in place from September 2015 until November 2016, read: "Guests agree that if guests find any problems with our accommodations, and fail to provide us the opportunity to address those problems while the guest is with us, and/or refuses our exclusive remedy, but then disparages us in any public manner, we will be entitled to charge their credit card an additional $350 damage".

As for Arthur, she's out to get her money back, and she's hoping this lawsuit sends a harsh message to any hoteliers who think they can go after customers for their reviews. She said she felt the hotel was punishing her "for being truthful".

The state alleges the hotel violated Indiana's Deceptive Consumer Sales Act by enforcing a customer review policy that is "unfair, abusive, and deceptive".

The case caught the attention of the office of the Indiana Attorney General. The written policy cited by the attorney general's office was posted to the hotel's website, according to the attorney general, but that hotel site appears to be taken down.

Consumers should not be afraid to leave a negative review of a business if warranted.

"You have the right to post truthful negative experiences online and Congress is saying that right can not be taken away from you, even if a company has required you to sign something that takes away that right", Bradley Shear, a Bethesda, Md. lawyer specializing in social media and privacy, told NBC.

Based on the protections of IN and federal law, consumers should feel comfortable leaving truthful reviews about their experiences.

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