Aussie hotel chain Meriton fined US$2.2m for manipulating TripAdvisor reviews, ratings

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 2): One of the largest hotel chains Down Under has been slapped with a US$2.2 million (RM8.96 million) fine for trying to block negative reviews on the popular TripAdvisor website, reports said recently.

According to a report by CNN yesterday, Australia's federal court said Meriton Property Services prevented guests who had complained or may have had bad experiences from getting a "Review Express" email to invite them to review the property on TripAdvisor.  

And that is a violation of Australia’s consumer law.

The same report by CNN said that the court found that between November 2014 and October 2015, the company’s employees provided TripAdvisor with invalid email addresses of customers who have complained.

This of course meant that the unhappy guests will not get any emails from TripAdvisor.

Reuters reported that Meriton also held back reviews during maintenance periods at its hotels.

"Meriton's conduct created an unduly favourable impression," Justice Mark Moshinsky said in a written judgment, Reuters reported.

"The contravening conduct occurred on a large scale, and the TripAdvisor website, where the misleading impression was created, attracted a very large number of consumers. In these circumstances, I consider that a large penalty is required," Moshinsky added.

TripAdvisor said in a statement it became aware of the problem in October 2015 and "took action to investigate and self-regulate, ensuring that any issues identified were addressed immediately and to the satisfaction of TripAdvisor's strict guidelines," reported CNN.