Bed and breakfast accommodation owners are being urged to participate in an official review of online review sites.
Hotels and holidays is one of three sectors where the government’s business watchdog is to focus on, in addition to home repairs, maintenance and improvement; and beauty and grooming products.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) instigated the consultation last month, saying it was is aware of “potential concerns about how trustworthy and impartial some of the information provided to consumers in [online] reviews and endorsements can be.”
The authority said: “Given the apparent importance of online reviews and endorsements, the CMA is keen to gather information to assess the validity of these concerns.”
The consultation follows research suggesting that large numbers of consumers are using such online resources. A 2014 survey estimated that 81% of UK consumers read customer reviews/ratings and 47% read blogs, the CMA said.
Trade body the B&B Association, which represents the 25,000 B&Bs and guest houses in the UK, is calling for B&B operators to submit their experiences of the way these websites operate.
David Weston, chief executive, said: “We often have members who have had negative reviews that are clearly unearned and false, having a detrimental effect on their much-loved businesses.
“At present there is no way for our members to remove reviews or challenge the individuals behind them, if the websites themselves – as they often do – refuse to remove a false review.
“We’d like to see a situation where small businesses are given the chance to protect their valuable reputations that have often been established through hard work before sites like TripAdvisor even entered the public psyche.”