TripAdvisor defends anti-fraud procedures in wake of Italian probe

TripAdvisor says it is confident in its anti-fraud detection systems in the wake of a probe by Italy’s antitrust watchdog into allegedly fake reviews posted on the site.

The Italian competition authority is examining whether the review site includes some comments by people who never actually visit the premises being reviewed.

It is also questioning whether TripAdvisor is distinguishing between independent reviews and profiles paid for by hotels and restaurants.

The probe was launched after the Rome-based antitrust authority received numerous reports by customers, owners of restaurants and hotels as well as a national consumer association.

The company said it would not comment on pending investigations, but told the Financial Times: “With respect to the reviews displayed on the site, as we have stated before, it is important to note that TripAdvisor fights fraud aggressively and we are confident in our systems and process.”

TripAdvisor said each review was tracked through algorithms to detect patterns of activity, while a team of more than 200 investigated suspicious reviews. There were penalties to deter fraud and mistakes were corrected quickly.

“Unfortunately every major service industry has to confront the challenge of fraud, but ultimately, if people didn’t find the reviews on our site helpful and accurate they wouldn’t keep coming back,” the company said.

The Italian watchdog has also launched a probe into the agreements made between Expedia and rival travel website and hotels, questioning whether clauses prevent hotels from getting better deals through other booking websites.

Expedia said it believed it was acting in compliance with the law. Priceline Group, which owns, declined to comment.

Italian hotel association Federalberghi voiced support for the investigations, saying it hoped the results would “shed light on the contradiction of the internet, which allows interested subjects to influence choices by consumers”.

It said it opposed the possibility of posting anonymous comments which “pollute the market and damage consumers”.

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