Online travel review site TripAdvisor has been forced to admit that not all of the reviews posted on its site are trustworthy or real.
The Advertising Standards Agency has asked TripAdvisor to take down the claims that it offers "trusted advice from real travellers" and features "more than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travellers around the world".
In the ruling today, the ASA said that TripAdvisor could not be certain that the reviews posted on the site were from genuine travellers or that they accurately reflected those travellers’ experiences. Responding to TripAdvisor's defence that site visitors tended to read dozens of reviews before making any decisions and that they had a "healthy scepticism" about the quality of the reviews, the ASA said they did not believe that consumers would necessarily be able to detect and separate non-genuine reviews from genuine content.
The ASA added that asking reviewers to tick a declaration stating that their review was "genuine" was not enough of an incentive to ensure that the truth was told.
The ruling came following a complaint brought by KwikChex, a "Reputation, Reassurance and Resolution service", and two hotels. The "reputation service" and the hotels questioned the ad body on how TripAdvisor could tell that its reviews were from people who had actually stayed at the hotels they were reviewing.
KwikChex, which seems to have led several campaigns against TripAdvisor suggested that the site should look at more in-depth ways of authenticating its reviewers – such as getting hotel owners to confirm the names of guests before allowing them review their hotel.
TripAdvisor describes itself as the world's largest travel site with over 50 million unique monthly visitors – as judged by comscore – with 60 million posted reviews and opinions.
According to the BBC, the ASA's ruling will only apply to TripAdvisor.co.uk and not the international .com site as the ASA's remit only extends to UK websites.
It is a ruling that could have implications for other sites that run user-generated content and make claims about the veracity of such content. However the ASA will have its work cut out if wants to take on people for talking crap on the internet. ®