TripAdvisor could face legal action from hoteliers and restaurateurs

The world’s largest travel site with 35 million customer reviews influential with many travellers using TripAdvisor before choosing where to go on holiday or eat out, is facing the prospect of legal action.

More than 400 hotels and restaurants have approached KwikChex.com, a firm which helps companies manage their online reputations after allegations that some reviews on TripAdvisor are fake. Chris Emmins, the co-founder of KwikChex.com said: “Some of the reviews on TripAdvisor appear to be just fake, or certainly contain completely untrue statements. Some are suspect and some fall into legitimate fair comment. I support customer feedback and I support the idea websites should not face unnecessary legal action. But it is bad for consumers if they just don’t know what to trust.”

Mr Emmins said that having contacted 120 businesses in the sector in both America and Britain to see if they would be interested in having their cases taken to TripAdvisor, 105 said they would be.

The type of grievances the upset hotels and restaurants cite range from the appearance of reviews that are alleged to have been falsified by competitors or individuals, to unverified claims of food poisoning, and unsubstantiated claims of theft or racism.

“To a small business with only a few reviews, claims of food poisoning can be devastating. In every single one we have looked at – and we have looked at around 100 – there has been no report to the local health authority and we could find no evidence of food poisoning. Those sort of things shouldn’t even be on TripAdvisor,” Mr Emmins said.

The need for a good rating from TripAdvisor has become increasingly important in the travel industry as numerous third-party sites carry the TripAdvisor content.

Bob Atkinson, from TravelSupermarket, the price comparison site for holidays, which carries TripAdvisor content said: “We believe that customers want more information than that provided by the hotel or the travel company, which understandably wants to present their businesses in the best possible light.

“But I would always caution consumers that people are always more likely to post a negative review than a positive review on these type of websites. That’s just human nature. Consumers need to read between the lines when they read these reviews.”

Mr Emmins said he was keen to avoid legal action if possible, and his aim was for TripAdvisor to take down reviews that were proven to be false, defamatory or malicious. “We hope common sense will prevail,” he said.

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