The regulator complained that people reading TripAdvisor Italy were unable to distinguish between genuine and fake reviews posted on the site. It said both were presented by TripAdvisor as “authentic and genuine in nature”.
The site has been slapped with a $611,000 fine for unfair trade activity and “misleading consumers” The ICA also accused the travel company of failing to provide proper checks to weed out bogus postings TripAdvisor Italy had broken three articles of the Italian consumer code, “making it likely to mislead a wide audience of consumers”.
TripAdvisor has hit back, accusing the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) of being out of touch.
“We think the ruling is unreasonable, strongly disagree with its findings and will file an appeal,” it said in a statement.
“We firmly believe that TripAdvisor is a force for good — both for consumers and the hospitality industry.”
It claimed it took aggressive action to fight fraud and had adequate systems in place to prevent it but it seemed that the Italian watchdog’s “zero tolerance” rules meant it would be liable to the same punishment even if just one review out of millions was deemed questionable.
It said that the ICA’s recommendations are unwarranted and out of touch with commercial realities, not just of a user-generated content business, but of any company in any sector.
“The bottom line is, if people didn’t find the reviews helpful, they wouldn’t keep coming back to our site.”