Class Action Lawsuit and Government Scrutiny Of Travel Reviews

Two new issues are adding fuel to the fire surrounding rampant travel review fraud, and may help bring the matter to a head, sooner than later.

1.  Yelp Class Action lawsuit.

Yelp became the subject of a class action lawsuit this week in a filing that asserts that the company used extortion by demanding monthly payments (in the form of  “advertising contracts”) in exchange for removing or modifying negative reviews.  This has been widely alleged and reported before.

2.  Europe may see new laws governing TripAdvisor and other review sites.

The British Hotel Association and others are talking with the European Union about strengthening laws governing review sites.  Hoteliers, at the least, want sites to implement verification that a person at least stayed in the hotel they are reviewing. This appears to be a matter that the EU is taking seriously.

At the same time, Travel Weekly is reporting that  the American Hotel & Lodging Association conducted a recent poll asking its readers if they believe such travel review standards are necessary. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed responded that the current system makes it too easy for competitors to unfairly tarnish or destroy a hotel’s reputation.

As a travel consumer, do you believe that travel review standards have become necessary?

(Beat of Hawaii is written as a labor of love; there are no advertisers and we’re 100 percent volunteer. Some posts, like the one you’re reading today, are “beyond Hawaii.”  Instead it’s a travel topic of interest to us and one we hope helps make each of us more informed travel consumers.)

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8 Comments

  1. Colleen (4 years ago)

    Throw out all the top reviews and all the lousiest reviews and you probably have a more accurate consensus of most properties on TA.

    There are so many ‘plants’ on TA. If you have spent any time at all looking at this site you can almost SEE which ones are fake. I have clicked on the persons name to look at their other reviews and found reviews for properties on opposite sides of the continent for stays during the same time period (NOT a smart faker – if I may say so)

    I have written many GOOD reviews of our stays while traveling. I don’t think you see only disgruntled travelers on TA – but I do think that there are more fake reviews now than there are real ones by real travelers. I certainly don’t use TA as the final word any longer. I do find the forums helpful – but even those can be skewed.

    Anonymity is the culprit. If a person will not be held accountable for their review – then no one is safe from slander.

    When I submit a review of a purchase on Amazon – it is via an email sent FROM AMAZON after my purchase has arrived – they have verified that I am a customer and requested a review from me. This same format could work = especially for large hotel chains.

    Of course, there is still the possibility that they would only post the great reviews. It can go both ways.

    I do feel for the hotel owners/managers who feel they have no recourse when they are slandered by TA reviewers. Just remember that ‘you can’t believe everything you read’ and most people do not. If they run a good, clean property with courteous employees and fair prices – they will be successful despite TA.

  2. M Bensal (4 years ago)

    I own a hotel that has been slandered by my competitors on Tripadvisor. I requested the removal of my listing and they claim they will not do so. I’m sure there are nundreds more in my situation. Any info on an existing or forming class action suit against them would be apperciated

  3. Frank McCready (4 years ago)

    There is only one way to resolve the Tripadvisor issue and that is to outlaw anonymous reviews. The TA concept was good and initially I was a fan.
    TAs failure to properly address the fraud issue has sewn the seeds of its own destruction, and inflicted a lot of damage on a lot of genuine hard working hoteliers. Once creibility has gone the site is of no use to either traveller or hotelier.
    There is a difference between freedom of speech and licence, if you are not prepared to put your name to what you write you should not do it.
    TA themselves should be at the front of the line in campaigning, and lobbying for changes in legislation. It is their only chance of survival.
    Meanwhile I hope by my own campaign to either force change, or challenge them in the courts.

  4. Pua (4 years ago)

    Hello again Jeff,
    Quite an interesting post, as usual!

    I told you in the past my view of those travel reviews, positive or negative. With all the advertising we are facing today, including ads for medications or voting for a politician, I think we are all well aware that the travel industry is no exception. It’s business as usual.

    So, a Hawaii traveler’s decision to stay at a certain hotel or vacation rental in Hawaii should definitely not solely be based on Tripadvisor or Expedia reviews, even though they can be helpful to get started. Word-of-mouth by friends and family seems still to be a great tool for making a final decision, just like in the old days when we had no Internet.

    My feedback from Hawaii vacation rental owners about those review sites is actually quite interesting. A majority of rental owners don’t really welcome those because the door to being ‘trashed’ by a not-happy customer – maybe the weather was bad, a gecko was sitting on the wall or they just did not get along with the host – is wide open.

    And think about it who takes the time to go into Tripadvisor and write this wonderful review about their Hawaii vacation home?! Hardly anybody does. But the ones who were not happy do! Even reviews in the Hawaii guide books ‘Big Island revealed’ etc. have to be considered as a one person subjective personal review. Don’t take it as the absolute truth because it is printed!

    Embrace Hawaii, its land and its people! We wish everybody a wonderful vacation in Hawaii!

    Aloha Pua
    Best Hawaii Vacation Blog

    • Jeff (4 years ago)

      Thanks Pua. Sage advice.

      Aloha, Jeff

  5. alba (4 years ago)

    I didn’t think the the fraud problem was with competitors trying to tarnish a hotel’s reputation. I thought it was with hotels giving themselves fake reviews that are favorable. It seems like most TripAdvisor reviews are highly positive, not the opposite. I guess it can go both ways.

    • Jeff (4 years ago)

      Hi Alba,

      I believe the fraud problem works equally in both directions – authoring of good reviews about those you want to help and bad reviews on those you want to hurt. TripAdvisor has a good share of negative reviews.

      Aloha, Jeff

  6. Colleen (4 years ago)

    Since it is abundantly clear that these review sites cannot be trusted – some kind of regulation is necessary. At the very least – someone should have to provide verification (a name, receipt number or date of stay) and then that information should be verified (even if it requires hiring someone (think JOB CREATION) to do the verifying BEFORE the review is posted. WHO CAN YOU TRUST? Sadly, almost no one.