BHA backs government probe in to online review sites

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Negative online reviews can be devastating for a business
Negative online reviews can be devastating for a business
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) is encouraging its members to share their experiences of online consumer review sites with the government.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the government’s business watchdog, has launched a consultation into the sites over concerns about the trustworthiness and impartiality of reviews being provided for consumers.

The BHA has asked members to respond to its own survey by 16 March, and will send all the responses it receives to the CMA.

Preventing misuse

Jackie Grech, policy and legal director at the BHA said: “The issue of user review platforms is that a small few do misuse these sites to leave untrue, malicious or black-mail reviews. Every review has a huge impact on the millions of prospective customers who use online reviews to guide their decision every day.

“Online review sites have tremendous market power as they are often the sole information source for potential customers. No one wishes to have their decision guided by a fake review, businesses do not want to face inaccurate claims on their hard work, and review sites do not want to be seen as inaccurate information sources. Therefore basic safeguards to stop misuse have to be put in place to ensure that these sites work as well as they can for consumers and for businesses.”

“The BHA will be making a robust and evidence-based submission to the CMA on this topic and asks all hospitality businesses for their feedback and experiences to ensure their voices are heard by Government.” 

A powerful tool in the hands of consumers

The CMA will also look at the roles that media companies, online reputation managers and search engine optimisers play in helping businesses to promote themselves and manage their image in relation to blogs and review sites.

Nisha Arora, CMA senior director, Consumer, said: "The information contained in online reviews and endorsements can be a powerful force in the hands of consumers. One of our priorities as a new authority is to take a closer look at developments and practices in evolving online markets.

"We are calling on consumers, businesses, review sites, bloggers and others who play important roles in this sector to help us understand how well it is working before we consider whether further action is needed."

A 2014 survey by Deloitte estimated that 81 per cent of UK consumers read customer reviews and 47 per cent read blogs.

The consultation comes in the wake of the #chavgate social media storm​, which typified the potentially damaging effect online reviews can have on a business.

Those wishing to share their views have until 16 March to take the BHA survey​, the final deadline for submitting information to the CMA is 25 March.

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