Meriton has been fined $3 million by the Federal Court of Australia for “engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct” and breaching the Australian Consumer Law by not soliciting TripAdvisor reviews from guests the serviced apartment operator believed would be negative.
“Meriton’s management directed staff to engage in ‘masking’ to stop potentially negative reviews from appearing on TripAdvisor,” said Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Commissioner Sarah Court.
“This gave the impression Meriton accommodation was of a higher standard than otherwise may have been the case.
“People often make purchasing decisions for accommodation based on the rankings and reviews they read on third party sites like TripAdvisor.
“Manipulating these reviews is misleading to potential customers, who deserve the full picture when making a booking decision.”
Commissioner Court added: “This case sends a strong message that businesses can expect ACCC enforcement action if they’re caught manipulating feedback on third party review websites.”
The $3m fine follows a November 2017, Federal Court ruling that Meriton engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and conduct liable to mislead the public by implementing a practice of ‘masking’ email addresses.
Masking prevented guests Meriton suspected would give negative reviews from receiving TripAdvisor’s ‘Review Express’ prompt email.