A persistent online review fraudster has been sentenced to jail in one of the first legal cases of its kind.
The Criminal Court of Lecce ruled that writing fake reviews using a false identity is criminal conduct under Italian criminal law and sentenced the owner of PromoSalento, a company which sold fake review packages to hospitality businesses in Italy, to nine moths in prison and ordered them to pay 8,000 euros in costs and damages.
“We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet,” Brad Young, VP, Associate General Counsel, TripAdvisor, said.
“Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone sent to jail as a result.”
TripAdvisor supported the prosecution of PromoSalento as a civil claimant by sharing evidence from its extensive in-house fraud investigations and providing support from its Italian legal counsel.
“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,” Young said.
“Online reviews play a major role in tourism and consumer purchasing decisions, but it’s important everyone plays by the rules,” said Mr Pascal Lamy, Chairman, World Committee on Tourism Ethics, UNWTO.
“Fake reviews clearly contravene the World Committee on Tourism Ethics guidelines, which we published last year to guide the responsible use of ratings and reviews on digital platforms. The recommendations were developed in collaboration with TripAdvisor, Minube and Yelp and we know that industry collaboration has an important role to play in tackling review fraud.”
TripAdvisor is advising anyone approached or contacted by companies or individuals offering fake reviews should not engage with them but share that information with TripAdvisor directly at email@example.com. All reports made to our Content Integrity team will be investigated and any information, no matter how minor, can help.