The influential travel and dining review website TripAdvisor is under scrutiny in Italy following complaints from consumers as well as hotel and restaurant owners.
Competition regulators are looking into possible fraudulent ratings of establishments – either unjustified criticism by rivals or owners posting fake praise – and whether the website is doing enough to make sure that does not happen.
Another worry is that the site may not make clear enough the distinction between information provided independently by travellers and the business profiles that hotels and restaurants pay to get published on the website.
With regard to the reviews on TripAdvisor, the US-based company insisted it has very robust systems in place for checking them.
Computer programmes – and human content checkers – are used to spot abuse and detect patterns of activity, it said, with any inaccuracies being quickly rectified.
In the past restaurant and hotel owners in some countries have reported customers threatening to write bad reviews unless given upgrades or freebies.
In addition the Italians have opened an investigation into online booking websites Expedia and Booking.com.
The competition watchdog’s concern is that travellers are not getting the cheapest deals, as the company’s agreements with hotels may limit the offering of better prices through other online services, or even a hotel’s own website.
Expedia said it believes it is in compliance with the law. The parent company of Booking.com did not comment.