Google, star ratings and confusion

By | Category: Travel rumblings

In France, a government body that looks at competition called the DGCCRF has fined Google €1.1 million (about £960,000) for misleading holidaymakers with its star rating system.

Here is the official announcement. (only in French.)

hotel room
Should an “official” star rating system for accommodation face competition from another star system or should a different logo to a star be used?

The body has been investigating Google for a few years about the ratings that it provides on its website and how their rating system compared to that issued by the French tourist board, Atout France.

Why?

Because in France the classification system developed by Atout France is the only authorised one to be able to use a star system.

Consequently by Google’s use of a star system there would be confusion that Google was using Atout France’s classification.

The DGCCRF has concluded that Google had been deceiving those using the star system to consider booking accommodation, hence the fine. Google has decided now to use the Atout France rather than persist with its own.

It seems to me that Google was rather inept in the first place in using a star rating system when it could have used another system grading system. In the UK all of the national tourist boards have been agreed on a unified star system for more than fifteen years and, thus, most holidaymakers can fairly easily tell the difference between a five star and a two star hotel and know what to expect.

We’ll probably never know why France had a Google system instead of the official one just as we will never know why they didn’t try to operate a system in the UK.

But what is getting increasingly confusing is the system used by review companies such as booking.com, TrustPilot, TripAdvisor and the like, to use a star system in their ratings. That is calculated based on the reviews they receive from people who stay in the accommodation or use connected.

Could not a simple numbering system be used like Reevoo uses with products or services? Why stars? The reason is that everyone recognises a star rating system and therefore no explanation is really needed, hence potential confusion with the review websites.

May be it is time our Competition and Markets Authority looked at whether there is confusion in the UK?

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