Australia: TripAdvisor is investigating the actions of Australian developer and operator Meriton.
The site is looking in to allegations that Meriton staff were instructed to prevent
customers from leaving negative reviews on the site, and in some
circumstances, offered incentives to customers to improve their
ratings of the business.
A former Meriton employee has provided screenshots of emails to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to back up claims the company's staff are told not to email TripAdvisor feedback forms to guests of Meriton Serviced Apartments who had complained about their stay.
According to the unnamed former employee, all Meriton customers are supposed to receive the feedback forms, but staff allegedly use a tactic called "masking", which involves adding extra letters to the email addresses of guests who have complained, so that the email that contains the feedback form bounces.
An email published by the ABC appears to show a manager pulling up employees for not using the technique. It said: "I have gone through the duty log for the past few days and a couple of accounts were not masked. This guest was stuck in their shower and then had to pull the door off to get out. This should definitely be masked. I need each of you to ensure that you are being proactive to prevent these comments reaching TA [TripAdvisor]."
The same employee told the ABC Meriton employees offered to "compensate" guests if they changed their online review of the apartments to a more favourable rating.
The employee said: "I was always uncomfortable about doing it. I thought it was crazy. If you work in a five-star chain like Four Seasons, you receive the negative feedback and you act on it to prevent it from happening again, you don't contact the guest and bribe them to take it down".
A spokesperson for TripAdvisor said it is investigating the matter "to ensure the integrity of our system and content".
"TripAdvisor investigates all reports of fraud and abuse submitted by our community and takes action against any property found to be violating our terms of service or review guidelines," the spokesperson said.