Meriton blocked negative Trip Advisor reviews with email dodge, consumer watchdog alleges

Serviced apartments giant Meriton used an email hack to stop customers from posting negative reviews on Trip Advisor, the consumer watchdog claims.

meritonAction launched in the Federal Court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accuses Meriton Serviced Apartments operator Meriton Property Services of engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct when it blocked reviews by altering the email addresses of customers.

The ACCC claims the actions took place after its hotels had suffered infrastructure or service failures.

It said that Meriton used a TripAdvisor service called ‘Review Express’ where participating businesses provide Trip Advisor with email addresses of recent customers who have consented to passing on their details.

TripAdvisor then emails the customers, prompting them to submit a review of their recent experience with that business.

“The ACCC alleges that from November 2014 to October 2015, Meriton took steps to prevent guests it suspected would give a negative review from receiving TripAdvisor’s ‘Review Express’ email to avoid them posting potentially negative reviews,” the ACCC said.

“It is alleged that this was done by inserting additional letters into guests’ email addresses provided to Trip Advisor so that the email addresses were ineffective, and not sending other guest email addresses to TripAdvisor.”

ACCC commissioner, Sarah Court, said the action had been approved by senior management.

“We allege that Meriton’s conduct was a deliberate practice, undertaken at the direction of Meriton’s senior management, aimed at minimising the number of negative reviews,” Court said.

“This practice was likely to create a more positive or favourable impression of the standard, quality or suitability of accommodation services provided by Meriton.

“Consumers rely on independent review platforms like Trip Advisor when making purchasing decisions. If reviews are manipulated to falsely create a more favourable impression about a provider, consumers may choose that provider on the basis of that falsehood over another accommodation provider who has not engaged in misleading conduct.”

Mumbrella has contacted Meriton.


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