Online review regulation

By | Category: Travel rumblings
© Dan Sperrin

© Dan Sperrin

Last April, Amazon sued four companies for creating reviews to go on the Amazon website. Earlier this week it said it would prosecute 1,114 people for writing fake reviews. Why doesn’t TripAdvisor and all the other travel review sites take such a hard line as well?

Everyone knows that fake reviews exist. Over 25,000 cases are said to be faked on TripAdvisor alone. Other companies such as Venere, Holiday Watchdog, Trivago and Expedia all face the same issues of faked reviews but do we ever hear of prosecutions? Sometimes we here the rebuttals of a hotel owner but when did you last hear of a reviewer being convicted of writing a totally misleading review?

There are companies who will create reviews for you. Just about Travel has been approached by companies in Bangladesh, Russia and the Philippines all saying that they can provide reviews which suggests they haven’t done their homework since we don’t sell holidays or, indeed anything at all.

In Australia, a company called Meriton which has luxury hotels has been accused of virtually trying to bribe guests to alter bad reviews and screening out some entirely. All TripAdvisor is quoted by the ABC as saying is, “we fight fraud aggressively”. Any attempts by an owner of a property to boost the reputation of a business by selectively soliciting reviews only from guests who have had a positive experience is considered fraudulent, and is subject to penalties,” Penalites? Does that include court action or just blocking reviews rather than reviewers?

Stories are legion amongst hoteliers and B&B owners who say that they have been asked for discounts or they will be given a bad review. Some give in; few bluntly tell the proposed reviewer where to go. They don’t have the wherewithal to fight; big companies like TripAdvisor and Expedia do so why don’t they trumpet how they are trying to make the reviews all independently based for prosecuting? A few court victories would do more for their standing with readers than saying something like internal vetting is working.

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