TripAdvisor reviews could be fake, say advertising watchdogs
Travel review site TripAdvisor has been told it can no longer claim to offer "trusted and honest reviews" after an investigation by advertising watchdogs found the site could not guarantee customer feedback was genuine.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was possible some of the reviews on TripAdvisor were fake as they was no way of proving they were from genuine customers as the site doesn't vet its users.
It ordered TripAdvisor to avoid running adverts claiming its reviews were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted. It said this should be a warning to all websites that make claims about the reality of their user-generated content.
The ASA's investigation followed complaints from two hotels and from online reputation management company KwikChex, which represented other hoteliers, that TripAdvisor's claim to offer honest reviews was misleading as it could not be substantiated.
The advertising body 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.
It also recognised that TripAdvisor used "advanced and highly effective fraud systems" to identify and remove fake content.
But it 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'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 business.
TripAdvisor issued the following statement in response to the ASA ruling. "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."
Tripadvisor.co.uk removed the word "trust" from its homepage last year. Instead it 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".
."Report by Linsey McNeill Travel Mole website.