An Italian court has overturned a ruling that ordered popular review site TripAdvisor to pay a 500,000 euro ($550,000) fine over false reviews.
"TripAdvisor never asserted that all the opinions were real, even mentioning that verification was impossible and to consider the trend rather than each comment one by one," the administrative court ruling said, reported by the The Local in Italy.
In December, an Italian watchdog agency fined a local subsidiary of TripAdvisor based on assertions that the company's advertising had emphasized "the authentic and genuine nature of the reviews, persuading consumers to believe the information is always reliable and reflects real tourist experiences.”
Federalberghi, Italy's hotel and restaurant trade association, has expressed its disappointment in the latest court ruling and stated that this decision confirms Italy’s laws allow companies to continue without correcting bas business practices.
The association also pointed the recent case in which Italian lifestyle magazine “Italia a Tavola” revealed flaws in the TripAdvisor system by setting up a “string operation.” The magazine created a fake restaurant and posted 10 made-up reviews. According to Eater, the restaurant climbed to the top of the rankings and within a month was rated as the best restaurant in the town of Mongia del Gara—beating out a real restaurant with over 200 positive reviews.
The magazine has since started a campaign to force TripAdvisor to allow people to post reviews only if they can prove they have eaten at the restaurant.