Published on Friday, April 27, 2012

Travel industry targeted by reputation management company

Reputation management company KwikChex is to beef up its efforts to protect the travel and hospitality sector against false and damaging online reviews.

The company said no other industry has been as affected by harmful review websites, so it has decided to dedicate additional resources to the sector.

It has outlined a number of measures to stamp out abuse, which include:

- developing a ratings system for reviews sites, to provide consumers with clear information on degrees of reliability

- drawing up recommendations for improved guidelines and conduct for the providers of online reviews

- recommending the creation of a dispute resolution method to improve the quality of information for consumers and protect against abuse

- introducing new review fraud detection testing.

It is also planning to make a submission to the Securities Exchange Commission regarding TripAdvisor.

It said the submission relates to claims made by TripAdvisor regarding its capabilities in ensuring that reviews are authentic.

"This claim is included in filings made by the business to investors and is listed as a 'key strength' in such filings," said KwikChex co-founder Chris Emmins.

"In addition to the filing, the company has made numerous statements with regard to this element of their business. As this is presented as a key strength to investors, we are asking that tests be carried out by the regulatory authorities to determine whether such statements are accurate or misleading."

In a statement, Tripadvisor said the it completely stands by its independently endorsed review integrity processes and said KwikChex was acting with clear commercial interests.

"The reality is, while no system is perfect, if consumers didn’t feel that the information they see on the site is an accurate reflection of their actual experience, they wouldn’t keep coming back," said a spokesman.

"We expend significant efforts with respect to manual and electronic fraud detection in order to maintain the quality and authenticity of user reviews. No online review site, verified or not, can provide a 100% guarantee that every single user-submitted review is authentic.

"This rating system has been created by a company with clear commercial interests in undermining confidence in open user-generated platforms. It therefore comes as no surprise that the criteria set out entirely favours the company publishing it and the related services the company offers."
by Bev Fearis

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