Federalberghi, the Italian Federation of Hoteliers, has launched a formal protest against sites that collect anonymous user reviews.
In a recent letter addressed to the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Industry, The Federation President Bernabò Bocca called for the introduction of rules on blogs and sites, including the right of rectification, and the obligation of signing reviews with users’ full names, or alternatively direct responsibility of the site for its reviews.
The main target of the Federation’s protest is TripAdvisor, the travel portal where users can exchange opinions on hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions worldwide.
Regarded as one of the “pioneer” services of Web 2.0, since 2000 TripAdvisor has collected user reviews, many of which anonymous, without either control or censorship. The portal, which currently has more than 40 million monthly visitors, is owned by Expedia Inc., the U.S. travel company and online booking giant, which runs popular sites such as Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com.
It was precisely this combination of anonymity and Expedia’s management of the site which aroused the suspicions of President Bocca, according to whom the obligation for users to log into the portal with their full name and preferably the addition of the dates of their stay, would guarantee the authenticity of the reviews and dispel the suspicion that the reviews had in fact been created ad hoc.
The press release in which Federalberghi expresses its request for a ruling against anonymous reviews also carries the news of a decision by the Court of Paris, which a few days ago condemned Expedia, TripAdvisor and Hotels.com to pay a fine of € 430,000 for unfair and deceptive trade practices.
The Court accepted the requests of Synhorcat (the French Association of Hoteliers) which accused Expedia of providing the public with inaccurate information regarding the availability of rooms at some hotels thus benefitting others which are business partners of the site itself. Synhorcat also contested the fact that the partnership between Expedia and Tripadvisor was in no way made clear to users.
The sentence, even if only partially relevant to the current protest by Federalberghi, was heralded as a major success in the campaign that HOTREC (the European organization of hotels, restaurants and bars), together with Federalberghi and the other national associations, is promoting in all European countries against unfair trade practices.
It does appear, however, that not all Italian national associations are united in the battle against TripAdvisor’s anonymous reviews. Confindustria alberghi (The Confederation of Hotels) and AICA (The Italian Association of Hotel Companies) recently launched an ongoing collaboration with “TripAdvisor for Business” aimed at overcoming problems and identifying key areas for improving the features of TripAdvisor dedicated to companies in the hospitality industry.