Meriton was fined $3 million AUD by a federal court in Australia for effectively running a TripAdvisor review scam.
The Australian service apartment hotelier had been using Review Express function of TripAdvisor where they send guest email addresses for review purposes. When front desk was suspecting that the guest may not leave a favorable review or there were construction going on/issues at the property, hotel had changed the guest email addresses (faking them) before forwarding them.
Here’s an excerpt from Sydney Morning Herald (access their piece here):
A company owned by Australia’s second-richest person, Harry Triguboff, has been slapped with a restraining order and a $3 million fine for filtering negative reviews about its apartments on comparison website TripAdvisor.
The steep penalty follows a first-of-its-kind case pursued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against Mr Triguboff’s Meriton serviced apartments after they were found to be “masking” customers’ email addresses to stop negative comments.
When Meriton suspected its guests would write bad reviews about its properties, its staff would tamper with customers’ email addresses to stop them being shared with the popular travel review website.
And here’s from the Guardian (access their piece here):
In other cases, the property manager added the letters “MSA” to email addresses, ensuring they were invalid and guests were not prompted by TripAdvisor to leave a review.
“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.”
“This conduct created a more positive or favourable impression of the quality and amenity of Meriton’s serviced apartments, and had the effect of reducing, in the minds of consumers, awareness of the prevalence of service disruptions at Meriton’s properties.”
This is a classic scam that many hotels engage even within their own chains (deleting email addresses so that after stay surveys cannot be send).
I am glad that the federal court in Australia sent a strong signal that this kind of behavior is not accepted in down under.