Your selected location:
  1. Home
  2. /
  3. HHG Articles
  4. /
  5. Corporate & Commercial Law
  6. /
25 Nov 2016

The ACCC yesterday launched an unprecedented legal action against Meriton Serviced Apartments for allegedly manipulating its ratings and reviews on the Trip Advisor website.

The ACCC is arguing in the Federal Court of Australia that Meriton’s practice of selecting guests and prompting them to complete a Trip Advisor review amounts to misleading or deceptive conduct.

While it is certainly unlawful for hoteliers to submit fraudulent reviews on behalf of people who were never guests, or to offer incentives for either positive reviews or removing unfavourable reviews, this current case is testing whether it is actually dishonest to select which customers to ask for their opinion.

We foresee potential difficulties with the argument the ACCC is running because businesses have long been permitted to publish testimonials and positive reviews without having to balance such opinions by also publishing complaints. Selecting customers to ask for a review does not seem very different to the common practice of selecting only positive reviews to publish on a business’s website and screening out negative reviews. The distinction here appears to be that the requested reviews are for the Trip Advisor site and not the Hotel’s own website, so it could be said Meriton is exploiting the public perception of Trip Advisor ratings and reviews as being unbiased.  But does a perceived lack of bias and independence also mean that the public believe or expect Trip Advisor reviews are unsolicited or don’t involve review targeting by the businesses being reviewed?

The Trip Advisor website and its terms and conditions of use reveals that it proactively combats fraud and maintains the integrity of the reviews it receives.  Its Content Integrity Policy notes:

“Unfortunately, we have seen over our 15 years that some unscrupulous businesses will try to cheat in order to attract more customers. We define “cheating” as positively reviewing their own business (or finding others to do so on their behalf) or negatively reviewing their competitors.”

Trip Advisor clearly does not consider only encouraging reviews from guests who will provide positive reviews to be “cheating”.  Trip Advisor discourages such practices by providing the following advice to businesses:

“avoid selectively e-mailing only the guests you believe will write positive reviews. Review Express emails should be consistently sent to all guests”

However it is not a Trip Advisor requirement that businesses send prompt emails for reviews to all guests. Nowhere does Trip Advisor hold out to the public that the reviews are unsolicited or unselected by the businesses themselves.

The ACCC is no doubt bringing this action against Meriton because the business of online reviews – especially in relation to travel destinations – is big business and consumers are clearly influenced to spend money at businesses that have received a positive rating from other consumers via review sites like Trip Advisor.

Investigation and/or criticism may have been more usefully brought against Trip Advisor itself for not requiring that the businesses it engages promise not to selectively solicit reviews.  It is Trip Advisor that advertises itself as an independent and trusted source of accurate reviews for consumers while consumers are used to businesses like Meriton promoting their satisfied clients without mentioning their critics.

Interestingly the Trip Advisor website seems to have recently removed any reference to the reviews it publishes as being ‘unbiased’ – and instead the language it is currently using to promote its services has changed to focus on the reviews being ‘candid’ or ‘genuine’.  However, when Trip Advisor is inputted into the Google search engine the summary that is displayed still claims the following:

“World’s Largest Travel Site. 385 million+ unbiased traveller reviews. … possible itineraries and finds you the lowest fares the most often of any online flight finder.”

The fine print in the Trip Advisor Terms of Use includes extensive disclaimers including:

“TripAdvisor takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any Content posted, stored or uploaded by you or any third party, or for any loss or damage thereto, nor is TripAdvisor liable for any mistakes, defamation, slander, libel, omissions, falsehoods, obscenity, pornography or profanity you may encounter.”

Despite the disclaimers there is no doubt that Trip Advisor represents itself to consumers as a source of reliable information about the quality of the businesses it publishes reviews about.  Where consumers are relying on those reviews money is necessarily being directed away from one business toward another.

It appears arguable that it is Trip Advisor which has engaged in misleading consumers by not clearly requiring hotels like the Meriton to promise to send prompts for reviews to ALL of its guests.

The public interest the ACCC no doubt believes it is serving by policing the accuracy of online reviews would perhaps be better served if it took aim at the large online review businesses like Trip Advisor rather than making an example of one accommodation provider.

We will wait to see whether the cost and effort of this ACCC prosecution results in any real gains for consumers as we browse online trying to avoid staying at sub-standard hotels.
This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.

*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

Supporting Western Australians for more than 100 years

"Always fast and thorough service. Thank you"


My circumstances at the time I made contact with HHG were dire following my argument being rejected by two no win no fee firms. Following my initial meeting with HHG's employment law team I was left feeling extremely positive by the response and concern shown by HHG in regards to their support of my argument along with their preparedness to pursue an outcome on my behalf.

I accept the fact that nobody really wins in these cases (mental health/ workplace) however the end result was what would be considered most favourable and far in excess of what would have been achieved had I not sought the advice from HHG.

I have no hesitation in recommending HHG to anyone caught up in the messy circumstances I found myself in at the time.

Great advice and five-star commitment to their client!!"


"Thank you for such great assistance with the transaction of Flying Domestics on behalf of Lorna Good. It has been such a pleasure to work with the HHG Legal Group and I look forward to working with you in the future."


"Simon Creek and his team were at all times empathic, professional and confident.  My matter needed to be addressed within a pressing time frame, and their availability at short notice and contact after hours was much appreciated.  It caused me considerable stress, but having such a thoroughly reliable and competent team to call on helped me to feel in control. Although I hope not to need their services again in future, I would be confident in doing so!"


"A good outcome is what we can expect.  A great outcome is a sign of a company which does the very best for their clients. A very big thank you to Daniel Morris for showing empathy towards my small and much needed legal action.

To HHG Legal Group, thank you for a great outcome.  I would recommend your company to anyone seeking legal services."


"Your support this morning was amazingly kind, not to mention your totally reassuring competence, knowledge and wisdom that you used on my behalf.  It was extremely reassuring to have your knowledgeable support, and I particularly appreciated your real and obvious kindness to me. It means so much at a very difficult time. I'm so grateful to you."

Family Law Client

"Janene was very professional and we established a good rapport quickly. The subject of death and wills can be quite confronting to deal with, however, Janene's approach was soft and accommodating."


"A big thank you to HHG for their professional service, continued support, and wide range of legal knowledge. Our clients have given us nothing but kind words regarding HHG Legal Group and so we have no hesitation in referring and recommending Simon Creek and HHG Legal Group for their outstanding services and legal expertise."


"Simon is a friendly and practical legal advisor. I have received great feedback from the clients I have referred to him and his team at HHG Legal Group."


"Over the last few years, I have been impressed by Simon’s legal ability, management skills, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and people skills. He appears to be that rare breed of lawyer – both knowledgeable and commercial."


"Our family has been a client of HHG Legal Group over many years.  Business has included drawing up of wills for three generations and preparing of probate for my father in law. I would have no hesitation in recommending HHG Legal Group to anyone requiring such services."


"You should be congratulated for the manner in which your staff address clients and we found our dealings with your company, once again a very pleasant experience and we would like to truly thank you for your efforts."

Steve and Jane

"HHG Legal were absolutely fantastic. Extremely responsive and brought calm to our chaotic family situation through their knowledge and caring attitude. Extremely professional from our very first contact with them and they expertly guided our family though the required legal process over almost a 12 month period."


"Fantastic team! They really care about their client. Tim Colcutt is a 'go that extra mile' guy who gives his client his all. I can't recommend HHG and Tim enough."


"I had a fantastic lawyer in Matthew Lilly. He helped me out a great deal with good, sound advice in a friendly, professional manner. First class, thanks Matthew"


"Marine Plant Systems has been working with HHG Legal Group for a few years now and they continually provide first-class service. Their professional advice has been invaluable to our company."


"We were kept up to date at all times. Pricing was always updated over the time period so we remained "in budget". Personal access to someone whenever I had questions. All in all a great experience without too much fuss."


"Good service you can count on."


"HHG Legal Group has provided outstanding support as I have taken the journey of buying a business, their professionalism is beyond reproach. Their assistance throughout the Due Diligence process has been invaluable, I would fully recommend them."


"Very friendly and efficient service - what a pleasure working with Matthew."


"I highly recommend Daniel from HHG Lawyer in Mandurah. When dealing with a complicated legal property matter recently I was extremely impressed by Daniel's honesty and integrity and the legal advice I received. I am very happy with the service from HHG Legal."


Select your location:

Please select your nearest office location so we can show you the most relevant information.