'Honest' TripAdvisor reviews claim misleading, rules watchdog

The world's largest travel website, TripAdvisor, was censured by Britain's advertising watchdog yesterday and warned that it must not claim that all of its user-generated reviews are from real travellers.

The website carried statements such as "more than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travellers around the world" and "reviews that you can trust", the Advertising Standards Authority said.

But the watchdog upheld complaints that the US-based company -- which claims to be the world's biggest travel site -- did not verify the reviews to the extent that it could guarantee they were all genuine.

It said that claims that all reviews on the site were from actual travellers were "misleading".

"We told TripAdvisor not to claim or imply that all the reviews that appeared on the website were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted," it said in a statement.

TripAdvisor said its fraud detection systems were "advanced and highly effective" but that it was "not practical" for them to screen all reviews manually and that there was no practical way for it to verify identities owing to its independence from operators.

TripAdvisor said reviewers were asked to sign a declaration that their review was genuine and honest. The ASA concluded that this did not prevent non-genuine reviews from being posted.

A key complaint was made last year by an online reputation management firm called KwikChex.com, which said it had spoken to thousands of hotels claiming to be affected by malicious reviews, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The British Hospitality Association welcomed the ruling.


Spokesman Miles Quest told London's Telegraph: "We agree with the ruling – the industry has had issues with a number of aspects of TripAdvisor.

"We feel that the more people who use the website understand the basis on which the reviews are made, the better."

"Some hoteliers feel some of the reviews leave something to be desired in terms of accuracy and content, and have found it very hard to find redress."

AFP/The Telegraph, London

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