TripAdvisor faces a formal probe by the Advertising Standards Agency amid complaints from hoteliers and restaurateurs over the accuracy of reviews on the site.
The advertising watchdog is reported to be launching an investigation after more than 2,000 thousand hotel and restaurant owners approached online reputation management firm KwikChex.com claiming that some TripAdvisor reviews were either fake or defamatory.
KwikChex.com has demanded that the advertising watchdog looks into the complaints.
Co-founder Chris Emmins said the ASA’s investigation is one of a number of possible actions that TripAdvisor faces.
He is mounting a civil action in the US on behalf of hotel and restaurant owners and has submitted a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, the equivalent of the ASA in the US.
Emmins has claimed the high volume of defamatory comments posted on TripAdvisor confirmed that the site had contravened its own guidelines on screening every review and showing zero tolerance to fraudulent posts.
KwikChex also questions TripAdvisor’s claim that its 50 million reviews are from real travellers around the world.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the ASA’s investigation will focus on two aspects of TripAdvisor’s strategy.
The first relates to the use of quotations from its website. Under the watchdog’s code of practice – the so-called CAP Code – companies are not allowed to use “unverifiable” testimonials on their promotional material.
However, many hotels are encouraged by TripAdvisor to use positive quotes from its website for promotional purposes.
KwikChex.com believes that this could breach the ASA code. Forcing TripAdvisor to verify where its positive comments came from would also force it to verify where the negative ones come from, KwikChex.com believes.
The ASA is also looking into use of the word “trust” on TripAdvisor’s website, after KwikChex.com argued that this could be a misleading statement.
TripAdvisor will be asked to respond and provide evidence to support its position.
Emmins said: “KwikChex.com believes that such an evaluation is vital because evidence of epidemic levels of abuse, flaws and distortion are being rebutted at present only with standard statements from TripAdvisor repeating clams of diligence and trustworthiness – and the public need to weigh the evidence properly.”
A TripAdvisor spokeswoman said: “TripAdvisor does not comment on current or potential regulatory investigations or litigation.”