Australian Hotel fined AU$3m for rigging TripAdvisor customer reviews

Meriton Serviced Apartments has been fined AU$3 million for its unlawful act of rigging TripAdvisor’s reviews. Between November 2014 to October 2015, the hotel sent out letters to customers’ email addresses to “block” TripAdvisor from reaching any customers who left a bad review on the hotel.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission brought the lawsuit against Meriton, seeking a AU$20 million penalty, according to an article on Reuters. Australia’s Federal Court called out the Australian hotel for withholding customers’ reviews and imposed the fine to be paid within a month, the article adds. Justice Mark Moshinsky wrote in the judgment that Meriton had left an “unduly favourable” impression and expressed that in such circumstances, a “large penalty is required”.

Meriton argued that it played no such move on its TripAdvisor reviews when the news reached founder Harry Triguboff. Marketing has reached out to Meriton for comment.

According to tourism research Australia statistics, an estimated 430,000 fly in from Singapore to Australia on a yearly basis, out of which 82% have previously travelled to Australia. In addition, an approximate 50,000 Singaporeans reside in Australia.

In a conversation with Marketing, a spokesperson from TripAdvisor said the team took action to investigate and self-regulate when the allegations were brought to light in October 2015. It took steps to ensure the issues were addressed to consumers' satisfaction. Business owners are given strict guidelines and policies to adhere before placing their accommodation at TripAdvisor.

It is incredibly important to us that our site remains a useful and accurate source of information to travellers.

She added that TripAdvisor has a tracking system in place to map the how, what, where and when of each review. A team of hundreds of content specialists are on the system 24/7 to maintain the quality of reviews in a bid to investigate and/or act on reviews that is flagged for inspection. In addition, the team also conducts proactive investigations to avoid any hacking or fraud.

We are continually developing and enhancing our systems to ensure we stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.

 TripAdvisor aims to democratise the travel industry with its steps to ensure consumers have a smooth planning and booking decision making, the spokesperson concluded.