Claims by Tripadvisor.co.uk that its “Reviews you can trust” statement, alongside claims that the site carried “reviews from real travelers” and that it offered ‘trusted advice from real travellers’ was untrue, and banned the company from using similar claims in the future.
Three complaints were received by the Advertising Standards Authority, from KwikChex Ltd and two hotels as to claims made by the website, including "More than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travellers around the world" as the site does not verify the identity of its commenters.
The ASA agreed that while reviewers were asked to verify that that had no personal opinion or business affiliation with the hotel they reviewed or had no competition interest, it did however not believe that by agreeing to the declaration itself would guarantee genuine reviews being posted.
It did however also recognize that while TripAdvisor had taken steps to monitor and deal with suspicious activity, it was possible that non-genuine reviews could still appear on the site. It was also decided that consumers would be unable to differentiate between real reviews and that a hotelier’s response would not be enough to alert consumers to non-genuine content.
As a result, the ASA considered that the claims that consumers could be assured of genuine reviews might not be the case, and that its claims were misleading and must not be used again.
We noted that TripAdvisor allowed hoteliers a ‘right of reply’ to critical or negative reviews posted on the site and that they believed that users of the site had a healthy scepticism as a result of their experience of review sites more generally. However, we did not consider that consumers would necessarily be able to detect and separate non-genuine reviews from genuine content, particularly where a hotel or other establishment had not received many reviews, and nor did we consider that a hotelier’s response in itself would go far enough to alert consumers to, and moderate, non-genuine content.
Because we considered that the claims implied that consumers could be assured that all review content on the TripAdvisor site was genuine, when we understood that might not be the case, we concluded that the claims were misleading and must not be used again.