Tripadvisor vows to crackdown on ‘phoney’ reviews

TripAdvisor is cracking down on firms who offer to plant phoney reviews for hotels to help them boost their rating on the site.

Speaking after the reviews site debuted on the Nasdaq stock exchange on Wednesday, president and chief executive Stephen Kaufer said the company was continually investing in new ways to screen out bogus reviews.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK is investigating TripAdvisor after receiving complaints from reputation management specialist Kwikchex about its content and the way third party websites use its reviews.

The ASA is due to rule on the first complaint early in the new year, it confirmed yesterday. This year saw Tripadvisor drop its long-established slogan “reviews you can trust”.

Kaufer said: “Some companies are trying to convince hoteliers to pay them money to plant phoney reviews. We’re on to them, sometimes were interacting with them, when we catch someone using them we give them a warning and then a penalty.

“Hotels know – just like if you try to spam Google – there’s a pretty big penalty and that can damage their business.”

Kaufer said reputation management firms should communicate to business owners that their social reputation is an important part of their marketing strategy, but find free ways to manage it.

“There are free things hotels can do like responding to a negative review on the site or leaving a card in a guest room inviting guests to share their experience on TripAdvisor.”

Kaufer said the spin-off from Expedia would allow TripAdvisor to innovate, particularly in the social and mobile arenas, without having to get the go-ahead from its owner. 

“We’re no longer having to ask the question ‘are we allowed to continue to do this?’ If we want to do something Expedia might not have liked in the past, it’s no longer an issue as we are an independent company going forward.”

Kaufer said the move would “unlock shareholder value” and TripAdvisor would continue to ramp up its social and mobile efforts as a public company in 2012.

It will also continue to expand its vacation rental business and Chinese site DaoDao.

Shares in Tripadvisor lost 5% of their value on the first day of trading amid nervousness from investors in technology stocks, but they rebounded to over $28, higher than former parent Expedia.

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