Are TripAdvisor ratings worth the paper they're (not) printed on?

30 June 2015

TripAdvisorHave you ever visited La Scaletta? Until recently the top rated restaurant in Brescia, Italy?  If not, you aren’t alone, as Italian newspaper Italia a Tavola invented it just to prove the flawed nature of the TripAdvisor review system.

The newspaper decided to create a fictional restaurant, and then add fake glowing reviews, as an experiment to expose TripAdvisor’s vulnerability to fraudulent reviews. Within a month, the imaginary eaterie was the best restaurant in town. After contacting TripAdvisor for comment, La Scaletta’s listing was removed.

TripAdvisor, of course, deny that this means their system is flawed. A spokesperson for the company told The Independent:

“It is a pretty meaningless experiment to create a fake listing or reviews just to try and catch us out, since that is completely different from the fraud we see and catch on a daily basis. We know that, when fraudsters attempt to manipulate the rankings on our site, they leave behind patterns that we can and do trace.”

They added that they are “absolutely committed to ensuring that the content on TripAdvisor provides a trusted and useful source of information for those planning a trip anywhere in the world,” highlighting the fact that they removed the listing and the reviews from their site since they realised it ‘failed to meet guidelines’.

TripAdvisor, which currently lists over 170 million reviews, has become somewhat beleaguered of late. Last December, Italian authorities fined TripAdvisor €500,000  after ruling that it had failed to adopt sufficient mechanisms to protect consumers from misleading information, and last week it became the centre of a storm over accusations that they had deleted negative reviews of a National Trust property after a request from the PR department, who’d much rather not have those pesky ratings on the site.

TripAdvisor reportedly deleted more than 200 reviews of Wakehurst Place, a National Trust estate leased by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, with many of the negative reviews complaining about a £10-a-day parking charge and about National Trust staff at the property. TripAdvisor said that the deletions were made because they had determined that they did not relate to a genuine first-hand experience. Which is a convenient excuse.

All of this is, of course, great material for the current CMA investigation into the reliability of review sites…

TOPICS:   Consumer Advice

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