Consumer group CHOICE welcomes the ACCC’s decision to initiate proceedings against Meriton for misleading or deceptive conduct over reviews of its properties on the TripAdvisor website.“If Meriton is found to have taken steps to prevent unhappy customers from posting their experiences online, we’d like to see the Federal Court issue the maximum penalty,” says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.
The regulator claims Meriton took steps to prevent guests from providing negative reviews about the chain on TripAdvisor.
“When consumers are booking the holiday of a lifetime, they need to be confident that the reviews they’re reading tell the whole story about a property and don’t simply reflect what a business wants them to see,” Mr Godfrey says.
“User reviews only work when positive and negative reviews are posted so consumers can form a balanced view.
“A one-way tide of positive reviews could be a sign something is amiss.”
Last year a CHOICE investigation into fake online reviews found that 20 short-form reviews can be purchased for as little as US$5 and 2500 Facebook likes can be bought for just $70.
“The staggering popularity of user reviews, as consumers share and rate their experiences, has unfortunately also given rise to the practice of companies faking reviews to promote their own business,” says Mr Godfrey.
“Section 29 of Australian Consumer Law prevents businesses from making or inducing false or misleading representations through testimonials or reviews.
“Businesses that pay people to write reviews who have never used their products or services are clearly misleading consumers but those same considerations also apply to editing or deleting less favourable ratings.”