This article was first published in the Daily Telegraph
Tripadvisor, the travel reviews website, has removed the slogan “reviews you can trust” from its hotel listings, in favour of the phrase “reviews from our community”.
The website is currently being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) following thousands of complaints from hoteliers about allegedly misleading and fraudulent reviews.
Although the slogan has been removed from the website’s hotel reviews, it still appears on reviews for other businesses, including restaurants and attractions.
Tripadvisor carries more 50 millions reviews which it claims are honest, reliable and written by “real travellers around the world”.
However, the online reputation company KwikChex.com has questioned the legitimacy of those claims. It believes that up to 10 million reviews are faked, and alleges that Tripadvisor does not do enough to authenticate its reviews or remove fraudulent posts.
Chris Emmins, the co-founder of KwikChex.com, said it has already been approached by more than 2,000 businesses, and is continuing to receive new complaints.
He also alleged that new evidence suggested TripAdvisor had “punished” businesses that make allegations of misconduct against it by placing a red warning notice or “red badge” on the hotel’s listing, stating that “TripAdvisor has reasonable cause to believe that individuals or entities associated with or having an interest in this property may have interfered with traveller reviews and/or the popularity index for this property.” TripAdvisor refutes this claim.
Mr Emmins said such practices would “add weight to the evidence not only of abuse and lack of diligence – but also that TripAdvisor are not, as they have claimed, merely a distributor of third party comment.”
Emma O’Boyle, a spokesperson from TripAdvisor, refused to comment on the ASA’s investigation, but said the removal of the slogan “reviews you can trust” was unrelated.
“As with all marketing messaging, the wording used on the TripAdvisor site is constantly evolving to reflect different aspects of the business,” she said.
“The ‘Reviews from our Community’, which is now visible on the hotel pages, is also part of our ever-evolving communication efforts, this time highlighting our commitment to our all-important community. The description of TripAdvisor as a trustworthy source of travel advice and information remains used in other parts of the site.”
She added: “Red badges are used only in cases of significant abuse of TripAdvisor’s policies, where TripAdvisor has evidence that the property’s management, or individuals associated with it, have violated our policies on review collection or submitting fraudulent reviews. In such instances, a Red Badge provides not only a warning to the property but fair notice to TripAdvisor users to consider when reviewing the property.”
– Oliver Smith