TripAdvisor rebuked over 'trust' claims on review site

 
TripAdvisor screenshot The travel site's UK homepage no longer makes the claims that provoked the complaints

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TripAdvisor has been ordered to rewrite some of its marketing claims by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority.

The ruling follows complaints by hotels that the site had said that its holiday reviews could be "trusted".

The ASA said it was concerned that consumers might be fooled by fraudulent posts since the entries could be made "without any form of verification".

TripAdvisor described the ruling as a "highly technical view" of "copy that was used in a limited capacity".

However, the watchdog said that the ruling served as a warning to all UK-focused sites with user-generated material.

Fraud systems

The ASA said that the US-based firm's site originally carried statements saying that it contained "reviews that you can trust" and that it had "more than 50 million honest travel reviews".

It said that two hotels and the online reputation firm Kwikchex, which represented others, had complained that the claims were misleading since they could not be substantiated.

The advertising body said it acknowledged that reviewers were asked to sign a declaration that their reviews were real and that they had no incentive or competitive interest with the places commented on.

Start Quote

Don't major on trustworthiness if fake reviews can appear”

End Quote Guy Parker ASA chief executive

It also recognised that the site said that it used "advanced and highly effective fraud systems" to identify and remove fake content.

However, the ASA said it was still possible that "non-genuine" reviews could appear on the site undetected and that users might not be able to spot them.

It warned that this was particularly a problem in cases where an establishment only had a small number of reviews. It added that offering hoteliers a right to reply did not fully address the problem.

The ASA ordered the site to avoid running adverts in the same form again and said it must not claim or imply that all its reviews were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted.

"This should be regarded as a benchmark ruling which applies to all web sites which make claims about the reliability of their user-created content," the ASA's spokesman Matthew Wilson told the BBC.

Chief executive Guy Parker said that advertising rules policed by the authority applied to companies' claims on their own websites.

"This is a classic example of the sort of thing that members of public are complaining to us about," he said.

"Advertisers must apply the same scrutiny to their websites, as they do to their campaigns in paid-for space. And don't major on trustworthiness if fake reviews can appear."

The pros and cons of having your business reviewed on TripAdvisor: Published January 2012

The ASA's ruling was based on a survey of the site carried out in July 2011 when it was still owned by the travel booking service Expedia.

It has since been spun off as a separate entity. The current management downplayed the risk of customers being misled.

"We have confidence that the 50 million users who come to our site every month trust the reviews they read on TripAdvisor, which is why they keep coming back to us in increasingly larger numbers to plan and have the perfect trip," it said in a statement.

The tripadvisor.co.uk homepage now contains no reference to the word "trust" and simply describes itself as "the world's largest travel site".

However, its international tripadvisor.com address - which is accessible in the UK - continues to describe its content as the "world's most trusted travel advice" in the corresponding part of the page. It adds elsewhere that "you'll find real hotel reviews you can trust".

When asked about this the ASA said that its remit only extended to claims targeted at a UK audience, so it would not be pursuing changes at the .com site.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 112.

    Secretbanker, I agree entirely with what you say, but if you do that, then they post an incredible load of tosh and there is NOTHING the hotel owners can do about it - even when they have proof, threatening e-mails, testimonials from other guests etc. The only way is to take them to court for defamation or such. Even then, trip advisor don't take it off.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 111.

    TripAdvisor is corrupt as it comes! A meagre attempt at searching the net will find job posts of people offering to pay per "good review" about resorts and hotels. In addition to that hotels purposefully leave false, negative reviews about their competitors, the whole site is a farce!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 110.

    I cannot understand why Trip Advisor doesn't insist on clearly
    identified contributors and confirmation of a visit/stay at the
    restaurant/hotel. Transgressors should be banned from using
    the site.....As to the ASA comment that they can only regulate the UK site, with respect to them that is nonsense. Surely their remit
    applies to dot com sites available to UK users...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 109.

    Unfortunately the popularity of TA and the apparent impact it can have on businesses has in my view turned it into a much less reliable source of information. One MUST use their own judgement - and above all common sense - when reading any review of a hotel or restaurant on any website. At the end of the day a review is primarily an opinion and as you all know opinions can greatly differ...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 108.

    46.Worldweary1
    "After an unsatisfactory stay at a Lodge in NS Canada my wife posted a review on Trip Advisor. The owners threatened to sue and, long story short, we withdrew the review. However, I checked several more of their reviews and found some were just re-writes of their brochure text"
    Perhaps TA should set up a system where such complaints including vexious bad reviews are investigated

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 107.

    This is censorship pure and simple! Hoteliers have the same rights and access as customers so it works both ways! What a waste of time as you can spot the fakers and the genuine posts a mile off. ASA can only be attempting to raise their profile except in this case they have shown themselves advocating the removal of "free speech"!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 106.

    These sites can be very good to get an idea of what a hotel is like, but at the same time it can be used to destroy someones business.

    There was a program last year called 'Attack of the Tripadvisor' which showed the issue some businesses are having by people who are ultra critical and making huge long lists of checks to try and catch the hotel out; that is totally wrong.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 105.

    I think what this highlights is that ANY user generated content that has the potential to be used commercially or purports to be factually correct should always have a system of Peer Review and a way to check.double check and check again that information given is correct to the 'best of their ability'.Thats the get out clause but only if time has been taken to check properly in the first place.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 104.

    There is nothing in the Trip Advisor site that you won't find in any other user review site. All these sites are open to abuse, fraud and false claims. Like many posters have pointed out though, you need to understand the value and lack thereof that these sites hold and dont forget the golden rule... Opinions are like backsides... everyone has one and usually, they stink!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 103.

    It is the internet, not verified and constantly in a state of change. Some of it will be rubbish and some of it will be forms of marketing but a lot of it is useful and a chance for the ordinary joe to contribute their opinion and views. It is strangely closer to the truth in toto than the controlled alternatives but you do have to apply some intelligence to the process yourself.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 102.

    tripadvisor should come with a big red warning sign.. "the reviews you are about to read may have been created by the businesses themselves". Cheating on tripadvisor is rife. Fortunately on most sites like booking.com , you actually have to have made a booking in the place to be able to review it. On Tripadvisor, anyone can write anything. Try alerting TA about cheating. you have 50 words!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 101.

    Anyone has ever run a B&B will know how tricky it can be, dealing with the various organizations that are meant to help promote our business. Early on, we saw with TA that 25% of the guests who had stayed with us felt it was an awful experience - there were a total of 4 reviews on Trip Advisor, and there was no means to say anything by way of comment on their comment. I fully support this ruling.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 100.

    aberguy. I am surprised that you are open about your fraudulent comments. One would hope that the fact that you only gave positive reviews would set alarm bells ringing for most readers. You should be ashamed of yourself!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 99.

    41.aberguy
    "Anyone who beleives anything on any review site needs a big dose of reality. Ffor years I've been writing good and bad reivews on sites for clients including tripadvisor and never vistied any of the paces personally. I'm not the only professional reviewer around as at £50 a review for a few minutes work it a good part time income"
    .
    Is this poorly written posting for real?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 98.

    The proprietor of a local (and very reputable) business near me was branded a "cheat and a liar" by an anonymous reviewer. He tried to contact recent customers (all were happy) and he is now taking legal advice but I doubt he'll get anywhere. It is so unfair that these review sites allow unverified, anonymous posting of defamatory comments.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 97.

    I created a rating system that would eliminate all spurious comments . I contacted TripAdvisor but got no response!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 96.

    TripAdvisor is a great website which I use and contribute to. Discount the top and bottom 10%; see if any comments are repeated regularly eg. great breakfasts, dirty rooms etc - then make your choice.
    TripAdvisor provides a service that's better than trusting the glossy travel agent magazines of times gone by which used to state 'great sea views' when you're actually next to a construction site!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 95.

    I'm a singleton and used TA to select a B&B recently and it was well worth it. Having looked at reviews of places I have stayed, most reviews are honest and balanced. True, folks are different & that's why these reviews help.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 94.

    I review on Trip Adviser and have always given an honest opinion. I have better things to do in my life that write a review about an hotel I have never visited or a service I have not used. I depend on this site when I book to go anywhere and you can always spot the 'fake' reviews.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 93.

    I only write reviews of the bad places I go to.

 

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