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TripAdvisor defends reader reviews following warning by watchdog

The website has responded to criticisms about its “real travellers’” reviews section – saying that its users made “educated decision” based on reviews.

Image: Stacie Stacie Stacie via Creative Commons/Flickr

THE TRAVEL WEBSITE TripAdvisor has defended itself following the UK’s advertising standards watchdog upholding a complaint about the review section of the website.

The Advertising Standards Authority said that some of the website’s statements were misleading – such as promises to present “reviews you can trust” and “more than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travellers around the world”.

KwikChex Ltd and two hotels challenged the claims made on the website, saying that they could not be substantiated as coming from genuine travellers.

In its ruling, the ASA said that consumers would reasonably 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.

Noting that those posting reviews on the site were asked to agree to a declaration that their review was their genuine opinion,  that they had no personal or business affiliation with the hotel in question and had not been offered an incentive to write a review for it, the ASA nonetheless observed that reviews could be posted on the site “without any form of verification”.

The ASA it considered that the claims implied that consumers could be assured that all review content on the TripAdvisor site was genuine – when that may not be the case – and therefore concluded that the claims were “misleading” and ordered that the advert not appear again in its current form.

However, today TripAdvisor defended its claims, saying: “this ruling flies in the face of common sense and is unrealistic in its expectations from sites like ours.”

Pointing out that an independent group that provides industry expert advice to the ASA, the General Media Panel, disagreed with the ASA’s view of the claims, TripAvidor said: “Complaints were upheld on the basis that we could not provide 100 per cent certainty that every single review on the site was written by a real traveller and could be trusted. No system, verified or not, could provide this”.

It added that the site’s users approached TripAdvisor “with common sense”, and made educated decision based on the opinions they read there.

The statement also quoted a recent PhoCusWright study commissioned by TripAdvisor, which claimed that 98 per cent of respondents had found the site’s hotel reviews “to be accurate of the actual experience”.

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