Responding to the Competition and Markets Authority’s call for information regarding online reviews and endorsements, the ALMR has called for more to be done to protect both businesses and customers and regulate online markets.
The CMA has carried out a call for evidence into online review and endorsement websites.
ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Online review and booking websites play a significant role in the marketing of hospitality businesses and their influence has grown over recent years. A recent study by the EU found that 54% of British consumers use comparison websites before booking hotels or restaurants and the prevalence of such sites is bound to have a knock-on effect across the whole hospitality sector. A recent survey among ALMR members revealed that over 85% of the sites operated by respondents were included on review websites; and a Trip Advisor survey carried out in 2013 suggested that 96% of operators saw reviews as being of the utmost importance in generating bookings.
“The increase in the use of this technology has the ability to empower customers and provides businesses with the potential to improve their offerings and connect with their customer-base. Unfortunately, a recent survey of our members suggested that problems relating to online review sites are occurring with increasing regularity for our members.
“Review websites have effectively become third party intermediaries for guests to communicate with pubs, bars and restaurants instead of engaging with the business themselves. As such, there need to be accurate measures in place to ensure that the information available to customers, and relating to businesses, is accurate and timely. Some of our members have reported difficulties engaging with review sites when inaccurate or malicious information has appeared. Erroneous information, be it deliberate or accidental, is of no use to customers looking to make an informed decision and can be actively damaging for operators.
“Current provisions to ensure fair use of review sites are inadequate and we have liaised with the CMA to request that they carry out an inquiry and establish a Code of Practice to set out ranking and listing criteria, authentication procedures, withdrawal of reviewer anonymity and a requirement to identify paid-for listings.”