An investigation by the Times found that at least 80 hoteliers and bed and breakfast owners had complained that TripAdvisor has been used as a ‘weapon’ against them.
Hoteliers said they had been threatened with one-star reviews if they did not give in to guests’ demands, which included a 50 per cent discount on check in, compensation for a false claim of food poisoning and refusal to pay for damage to rooms.
TripAdvisor said it took the allegations ‘very seriously’, adding: “Not only is it strictly against our guidelines, but it may also be illegal”. Hotel owners who have been threatened in this way should contact the company immediately, in order to allow TripAdvisor’s ‘content integrity’ team to investigate, it said.
“We fully recognise the importance that the reviews and opinions on TripAdvisor have to properties and businesses listed on the site, and we encourage business owners to contact us via the management centre or our new dedicated UK customer care phone line if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly by a TripAdvisor user, or been victim of an illegitimate review or a review which does not comply with our guidelines,” said Emma Boyle, TripAdvisor’s spokeswoman.“We investigate absolutely every inquiry we receive.”
The British Hospitality Association said it would be launching its own line of enquiry. "We are in contact with TripAdvisor about a number of issues but this isn’t one that’s come up before", a spokesman for the BHA told BigHospitality. "We’re naturally concerned and we will be talking to Trip Advisor about this."
Accusations of foul play
Industry anger at TripAdvisor has been growing in recent weeks following Channel 4’s Cutting Edge documentary, ‘Attack of the TripAdvisors’, which highlighted how bad reviews posted by anonymous reviewers can lose hoteliers tens of thousands of pounds in lost bookings and reputational damage.
When the documentary aired this month, hoteliers and B&B owners lined up to add their own TripAdvisor experiences to the mix – the most frequent being that guests had said nothing negative during their stay, and then posted defamatory reviews on the web.
Accusations of foul play by rival hoteliers further stoked the debate, when it emerged that TripAdvisor’s security system has loopholes that allow businesses to post negative reports about their competitors.
But TripAdvisor defended its system. “We value the insights of the business owners as well as travellers and both are given an equal opportunity to speak to the TripAdvisor community – in fact, owners always have the last word in the management response tool,” said Boyle.
“We also have a zero tolerance approach to fraudulent reviews. We have numerous measures to manage the legitimacy of reviews on TripAdvisor including sophisticated automated tools on the site, and a large, passionate community of approximately 50 million monthly visitors that also help flag suspicious content,” she added.