Meriton found guilty of manipulating TripAdvisor Reviews

Serviced apartment and hotel operator Meriton was found to have engaged in illegal conduct by manipulating TripAdvisor reviews.  The ACCC sued Meriton and won.  The ACCC brought actions under s18 and the little used s34 of the Australian Consumer Law.

See judgment at:  http://www.judgments.fedcourt.gov.au/judgments/Judgments/fca/single/2017/2017fca1305

According to the judgment, Meriton manipulated TripAdvisor in two ways:

"The respondent (Meriton) conducts a business of offering serviced apartment accommodation at (at least) 13 properties in Queensland and New South Wales. These properties appear on the TripAdvisor website. During the period November 2014 to October 2015 (the relevant period), Meriton participated in the Review Express service offered by TripAdvisor.  On a weekly basis, Meriton provided TripAdvisor with the email addresses of guests who had stayed at its properties and TripAdvisor sent email invitations to these guests to post a review. However, rather than sending TripAdvisor the email addresses of all guests who had stayed at its properties (other than those who had requested that their details not be provided), Meriton adopted the following two practices:
(a)    The first practice was to add the letters MSA” (which stand for Meriton Serviced Apartments) to the front of the email addresses of certain guests. This rendered the email address invalid. This practice was applied to guests who had made a complaint or were otherwise considered likely to have had a negative experience at a Meriton property.  I will refer to this practice as the MSA-masking practice.
(b)    The second practice was to withhold from TripAdvisor the email addresses of all the guests who had stayed at a property during a period of time when there had been major service disruption (such as the lifts not working, no hot water, etc). I will refer to this practice as the bulk withholding practice."

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