ONLINE HOLIDAY AND HOTEL RATING SERVICE Tripadvisor has been told by the Advertising Standards Agency that it must change the way that it presents its reviews.
The ASA upheld a complaint against the web site that suggested that it could not guarantee the impartiality of its reviews, saying today that it must make some changes to the way that it represents them in its marketing.
"The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claims 'Reviews you can trust', '... read reviews from real travellers', 'Tripadvisor offers trusted advice from real travellers' and 'More than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travellers around the world' to mean that they could be certain that the reviews posted on the site were from genuine travellers, and accurately reflected those travellers' experiences of the places they visited," said that ASA in its ruling.
It found that although Tripadvisor asked its reviewers to agree to a declaration that said that they were impartial and not affiliated with a business, or had any competitive interest in it, this did not guarantee honesty.
"We understood that reviews could be placed on the site without any form of verification, and that whilst TripAdvisor took steps to monitor and deal with suspicious activity, it was possible that non-genuine content would appear on the site undetected," it added.
Because the ASA thinks that it might be hard for consumers to tell real impartial content from non-genuine reviews, and is concerned that hoteliers might not be able to respond forcefully enough and moderate content, it ruled that Tripadvisor's claims that it offers "Reviews you can trust" is misleading.
Tripadvisor seems unimpressed with the decision, but positive about its prospects. "The ASA has taken a highly technical view around some marketing copy that was used in a limited capacity," said Emma Shaw, a spokesperson for Tripadvisor.
"We have confidence that the 50 million users who come to our site every month trust the reviews they read on Tripadvisor, which is why they keep coming back to us in increasingly larger numbers to plan and have the perfect trip." µ