Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently concluded that TripAdvisor’s claims of “reviews you can trust” and “reviews from real travelers” were misleading and unsubstantiated. The adjudication is a result of complaints made by a reputation management company and two hotels. While TripAdvisor takes steps to monitor fraudulent activity, the ASA’s opinion noted that TripAdvisor does not have a reliable system to authenticate and verify reviews to ensure such reviews come from real travelers. The ASA determined that the claims were misleading because they implied that all review content was genuine, when that was not necessarily the case. For example, the ASA noted reviewers could have a competitive interest in the place they were reviewing or could be posting a review on behalf of a competitor. The ASA advised TripAdvisor that it may not use the claims again. The ASA’s decision is binding only in the UK, however the reputation management company who originally filed the complaint with the ASA has also filed a complaint with the FTC in the U.S.
TIP: Claims regarding the authenticity or trustworthiness of user reviews are likely to be viewed as advertising claims. Advertisers should not give consumers the impression that user reviews are the reliable and authentic unless steps have been taken to verify the authenticity of the user reviews.