This is not fake news. But it’s about fake reviews, an insidious problem at a time when online review site play a significant role in travel purchasing decisions.
In what is being described as a landmark legal ruling, and Italian court has sentenced a fraudulent online reviewer to jail, in one of the first cases of its kind.
The owner of PromoSalento, a company which sells fake review packages to hospitality businesses in Italy, was sentenced to nine months in prison after the Criminal Court of Lecce ruled that writing fraudulent reviews under a false identity was “criminal conduct.”
The defendant was also ordered to pay $12,000 in costs and damages.
It’s one of the first cases of paid review fraud, which is the act of selling fake reviews to business owners, to result in a criminal conviction.
TripAdvisor supported the prosecution as a civil claimant, providing evidence from its in-house fraud investigations team. The online review platform uses tracking technology and has a dedicated team of investigators to catch paid review companies and prevent them from operating on the site.
“We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet,” said Brad Young, VP, associate general counsel at TripAdvisor. “Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone sent to jail as a result.
“We invest a lot in fraud prevention and we’re successful at tackling it – since 2015, we’ve put a stop to the activity of more than 60 different paid review companies worldwide.
“However, we can only do so much alone, which is why we’re eager to collaborate with regulators and law enforcement authorities to support their prosecutions.”
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.