Barely a week seems to go by without some sort of rumpus involving the TripAdvisor website.
Operators appear to love it and loathe it in roughly equal measure. It is a great source of business - especially when it comes to drawing in customers from abroad - but when things go wrong, they can go really wrong.
Over the years there has been plenty of controversy - accusations of unscrupulous operators puffing up their own reputation with fake positive reviews, or surreptitiously slinging mud at the competitor down the road by posing as a disgruntled punter. Then there's the odd overbearing customer who uses the site as a tool to make threats - "give me that meal for free, or I'll write a bad review about you". And of course, there is the website itself, which has been accused many times of causing businesses a headache by failing to properly verify suspect reviews.
This week is different though. Instead of a business getting upset because TripAdvisor failed to investigate a review, we have a hotel which claims it has been damaged because it did and got it wrong.
In a nutshell, the Riverside hotel and restaurant in Evesham has been "red badged" by TripAdvisor on suspicion of writing fake reviews. TripAdvisor seems convinced it has got things right, but the hotel's owner strenuously denies it and blames guests posting reviews while in the hotel for the problem (see page 7 for the full story).
Without more evidence, it is virtually impossible to tell who is right and who is wrong. But the case has arisen at an interesting time - with TripAdvisor only recently having removed the "reviews you can trust" slogan from its website, and facing investigation from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) following claims reviews are misleading and untrustworthy.
Could TripAdvisor be starting to take a tougher line on suspect reviews? Watch this space.