Travel website claims 'misleading'
TripAdvisor has been told it cannot claim all of its reviews are written by real travellers.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said claims that all reviews on the travel site are genuine are "misleading".
The ruling came after complaints highlighted statements on the TripAdvisor website which claimed: "reviews you can trust", "read reviews from real travellers" and "more than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travellers around the world".
The complainants said they understood that TripAdvisor did not verify the reviews and therefore could not prove that they were genuine or from real travellers.
The ASA upheld the complaint and said that consumers would take the claims on the website to mean they could be certain the reviews posted were from genuine travellers. It said that, as reviews could be placed on the site without verification, it was possible that non-genuine reviews could go undetected.
TripAdvisor said it used "advanced and highly effective" fraud detection systems and dedicated substantial resources to identifying and minimising any non-genuine content.
However it said it was "not practical" to screen each review manually before it was posted and there was no practical way to verify identities due to their independence from operators.
TripAdvisor said reviewers were asked to sign a declaration that their review was genuine and honest but the ASA concluded that this did not necessarily prevent non-genuine reviews from being posted on the site.
The watchdog said: "Because we considered that the claims implied that consumers could be assured that all review content on the TripAdvisor site was genuine, when we understood that might not be the case, we concluded that the claims were misleading.
"We told TripAdvisor not to claim or imply that all the reviews that appeared on the website were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted."