“Reviews you can trust” – UK Advertising Standards Authority finds TripAdvisor ads misleading

Claims on tripadvisor.co.uk, a website providing holiday and travel consumer reviews, stated “… read reviews from real travellers … TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site, enabling travellers to plan and have the perfect trip. TripAdvisor offers trusted advice from real travellers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features … TripAdvisor.com features: More than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travellers around the world”. Review pages on the website featured the TripAdvisor logo next to the claim “Reviews you can trust” above a chart that gave details of the rating summary and percentage recommendation of the relevant location.KwikChex Ltd and two hotels challenged before the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) whether these claims were misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood that TripAdvisor did not verify the reviews on their website and therefore could not prove that the reviews were genuine or from real travellers.TripAdvisor said they did not claim to be 100% fraud free; no review site could guarantee that it was 100% free of fraudulent content. They said, however, that they did use advanced and highly effective fraud detection systems, and dedicated substantial resources to identifying and minimising any non-genuine content. Thus, the practical impact of small numbers of fraudulent reviews was effectively negligible.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. However, reviews could be placed on the site without any form of verification, and whilst TripAdvisor took steps to monitor and deal with suspicious activity, it was possible that non-genuine content would appear on the site undetected. As the claims implied that consumers could be assured that all review content on the TripAdvisor site was genuine, while that might not be the case, ASA concluded that the claims were misleading.TripAdvisor was told not to claim or imply that all the reviews that appeared on the website were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted.Find full text of ASA Adjucation of Feb. 1, 2012 here>>.

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