Action taken by TripAdvisor to put a stop to fraudulent postings on its online review site is often carried out unfairly and inconsistently, according to online reputation management firm, KwikChex.
Chris Emmins, co-founder of KwikChex, said that he has been contacted by many hotels and restaurants which have been negatively impacted by TripAdvisor relegating their listing down the ranking system following postings by a person connected to the business.
In some cases, penalised businesses were not even aware that rules were being broken, as in the case of a small hotel where an elderly relative of the owners posted reviews after staying at the hotel as guests. As a result, TripAdvisor dropped the business in the rankings by over 100 places.
Emmins said that business owners are often are also unaware that they should not post reviews about a competitor business, even if they are relaying a genuine experience.
"The problems arise when those that own or work in a business do not realise how TripAdvisor defines direct competitors," said Emmins. "TripAdvisor confirm that this would apply to any type of business in the same sector if that business is within 10 miles of your business. To put that into perspective, an employee say of the three Michelin star Alain Ducasse restaurant at the Dorchester hotel (in Park Lane) is not permitted to write a review of McDonald's in Hackney."
Additionally, KwikChex is concerned that the penalties imposed by TripAdvisor following infringements of their rules are not being applied fairly. "Whilst smaller businesses are being made examples of, larger businesses are not being penalised in the same way.
"There is a ridiculous inconsistency in terms of detection and punishment, with TripAdvisor failing to detect and act against many thousands of more blatant breaches, while relatively innocent businesses are made examples of."
With regards to hotel or restaurant operators being penalised when unaware that reviews were being posted by a connected person, TripAdvisor individual circumstances were taken into account when applying penalties.
"In the event that an owner suspects that staff at their establishment have attempted to post reviews that violate TripAdvisor guidelines, we recommend contacting us via the Management Centre," said the spokesperson. "We welcome efforts by owners to cooperate with our investigations team, and such efforts may be taken into account when determining any potential penalties."
When it comes to reviewing competitor businesses, TripAdvisor confirmed that individuals affiliated with a property are not allowed to review other properties of the same type within the same city or town, or within 10 miles. "For example, hotel staff may not review another hotel within 10 miles of that business but they would be able to review a nearby attraction."
"Past employees, volunteers or anyone associated with or related to employees of the property are not permitted to submit reviews of that business either."
TripAdvisor said that the guidelines for reviews are applied consistently between all businesses, large and small.
"The exact penalty applied will depend on the circumstances of each case, but the principles of how our team reaches those decisions are always the same. We treat every business equally."
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