The Australian hotel chain, Meriton Property Services, has been fined $2,2M by Australia’s federal court for manipulating TripAdvisor reviews by providing fake or no email addresses for guests they believed to have had a bad experience at one of their properties. The court believed that this would mislead or deceive consumers looking to book with Meriton, as it created a more positive review of the hotel and a better TripAdvisor ranking!
What happened: Meriton has a partnership with TripAdvisor and submits the email addresses of guests who have stayed at one of their properties to complete “verified” reviews. But, employees at Meriton properties apparently submitted fake email addresses or withheld them altogether, so TripAdvisor couldn’t contact them for a review.
The court judged that enough of that happened to make the TripAdvisor reviews look better than they should and even improve the ranking, because poor reviews were not submitted.
This court judgement is good news for consumers who rely heavily on online reviews. I have previously reported on the issues with TripAdvisor reviews and advised to look at multiple sources before booking a hotel. This court case shows that even “verified” reviews on TripAdvisor are nor reliable, because hotels can manipulate them.
What can you do: I advise to look at multiple sources when booking a hotel and be scepitical, if there are significant differences in the guest ratings between different sites.
Generally, verified reviews on booking sites, like hotels.com or Agoda are more reliable, because they have the contact information of the guest and can avoid problems like in this case!
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