Britain Rules Against Veracity of TripAdvisors' Online User Reviews

NMT's picture
Wed, 02/01/2012 - 16:29 -- NMT

Today, TripAdvisor was barred from claiming the user reviews of family vacation hotels and resorts on its popular website are honest, according to a British authority. TripAdvisor’s problems were triggered last year by reputation firm, Kwikchex and co-founder Chris Emmins, reported Tnooz.

 The UK advertising “watchdog” ruled that since TripAdvisor’s reviews can be posted with no form of verification, TripAdvisor “must no longer claim all of its reviews are honest or from real people.”

What can this possibly mean to a company whose entire reason for existence is based on reviews? While the ruling “only” applies to TripAdvisor’s UK site, the implications for the company are enormous, likely resulting in other investigations, and certainly a loss of confidence in reviews in general and TripAdvisr’s in particular.

The language the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority used was very strong, noted James Hall, Consumer Affairs editor at the Telegraph. The statement told TripAdvisor, “not to claim or imply all the reviews on the website were from real travelers, or were honest, real or trusted.”

In defense, a TripAdvisor spokesperson said that an average traveler reads dozens of reviews before making a travel decision and that they “have confidence that the 50 million users who come to the site have confidence in the site which is why they keep coming back.”

But, Tnooz adds that other rulings questioning the use of unverified testimonials in advertising will have broader implications and constitutes a very slippery slope.

For now, TripAdvisor is hitting back, hard. But the damage may be too much to contain, especially given prevalence of fraudulent reviews across the Internet’s review sites.