Is this the end for TripAdvisor and Checkatrade?

Checkatrade and tripadvisor

The Competitions & Markets Authority is to launch a probe into online review websites to address "potential concerns" with the information presented to consumers.

Its concerns centre around the "trustworthiness or impartiality of information in some reviews and endorsements that is being provided to consumers", with most reviews left by anonymous website users.

The rise of review websites such as TripAdvisor (which rates hotels and restaurants), Checkatrade (which rates tradespeople such as plumbers and builders) and even the likes of, where people review the products for sale, has been phenomenal.


It has led to a wealth of information being available to consumers, but has also led to high-profile spats between companies and consumers, as well as accusations of bribery - with hotels accused of offering free rooms in return for positive reviews.

In November, it was reported that a hotel in Blackpool had charged a couple £100 extra after they left a poor review on TripAdvisor, while a hostel owner in Glasgow called one guest a "retard" after she also left a negative TripAdvisor review.

In June 2014, a national newspaper questioned Checkatrade's credibility after finding many consumers were being ripped off by tradespeople that had received sterling reviews on the website.

Many businesses have also claimed online reviews are unfair. Two high-profile chefs in Ireland have thrown "Certificates of Excellence" issued by TripAdvisor in the bin, because they claim anonymous reviews on the site cannot be trusted.

The CMA wants to investigate whether businesses are carrying out practices "that have the potential to mislead shoppers"; whether reviews "have the potential to distort consumers' decision making"; and whether reviews cause harm to businesses.

It will look at blogs, social media, specialist review sites, trusted trader sites, retail platforms and retailers' own websites; as well as the role the media and search engines play in directing people towards the reviews.

A powerful force

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said: "The information contained in online reviews and endorsements can be a powerful force in the hands of consumers. Informed consumers make better decisions, driving competition on price and quality.

"Businesses have always known that 'word of mouth' is one of the most important factors for potential customers; what online reviews and blogs do is to provide a greatly amplified version of this. However, for this sector to work well it is important that this information is genuine, relevant and trustworthy.

Depending on what information the CMA gathers, it could choose to launch a market study covering this area, ask the industry itself to self-regulate, begin consumer enforcement action against firms; or pursue government legislation to have certain practices outlawed.

Your Comments

Yes I reckon they have a good point.  Our local steam railway was given a poor rating by one customer (during the Santa Trains, although our Grand-children thought it was great and so did we) for a pathetic reason, and our local pub was given a bad rating by two customers who were nothing but trouble when they were there (I was in the pub at the time so I saw and heard) and they went without paying!

You'll never see an adverse review on checkatrade. Are all these tradesman really that good, not in my experience.

Honest people give honest reviews; nothing has changed. Less than honest individuals will manipulate information for reasons best known to themselves and this is nothing new. Travel companies have had a history of garnishing the truth regarding destinations on many occasions; politicians appear to provide us with information that is correct one day and less so the next and have also acknowledged on one famous occasion to being 'economical with the truth'. If an alternative to TripAdvisor and Checkatrade is proposed how would it be policed/monitored/evaluated and unless any enforcable options were available, another pointless exercise would have taken place.

I recently reviewed a hotel that we stayed in and then looked at other reviews.  Somebody had given it just one star and just ranted about having to sit saving sun loungers while the rest of the family had breakfast because it was the hotel's policy to remove towels left on sunloungers before breakfast.  Good for the hotel.  The reviewer never mentioned the huge rooms, spotless cleanliness, friendly staff, delicious food, the entertainment or anything else that contributed to a good holiday.  Hopefully, others looking at this review would see it for what it was - pathetic!

It's about time we gave the readers an intelligence that they will see negative reviews and read them (I do) and decide based on what the complaint was ... let's take a hotel with a bad spa area - if I don't want the spa then I don't care at all ... so that review will have no affect on my choice. If there are 50 negatives about the cleanliness of the rooms and 20 saying it's marvellous then I shall make my balanced judgement and not go there.
To make it fairer, the reviewers should supply name and address and contact e-mail ... an automatic e-mail is sent and has to be returned to the review site to confirm the e-mail contact. Not perfect but at least a name and address is supplied .... people like being anonymous, let's remove that.
Then the tradesperson or hotel can check the name and address to see if the review is actually from a customer.

I wouldn't post a review if I thought my email address would be published. I would not want vituperative comments from hotel managers to my home email if my review is less than favourable to them. I make a point of writing scrupulously fair reviews, highlighting good and less good points where appropriate. When I did this for one hotel in Scotland which was an absolute shambles - multiple mistakes in booking, rooms moved at their instigation not ours after unpacking with no help from staff, long delays at meals with fellow diners left waiting for their food after others had finished, and on one occasion the chips of fish and chips served well after the fish had been eaten, and running out of pasta for pasta bolognese and substituting rice (who runs out of pasta, for goodness' sake), multiple mistakes in calculating the bill and dubious cleanliness in the room, such that we left after one night, but a glorious loch-side position and views - the manager called me a liar in his response. I wrote a reply to that, but the site said that it did not allow a dialogue. I would be happy to scan in an itemised hotel receipt to the site, not for public consumption, as proof that I had stayed there, however.

When you read through some of the Amazon product reviews, you wonder on the mentality of some people. Some reviews say things like "Good product but haven't tried it yet!" or such like! Why bother? 
I've bought several things which have had a bad review and not had a problem. I just read the reason for the bad review and decide myself. Most of them don't add up or they are being used wrongly.
Last week I bought an item from eBay which had a few negative reviews. The main bone of contention was that it didn't fit on the tow ball on the car. A bit of brute strength and it fitted. If it hadn't have been tight, it wouldn't have done the job! 
Most reviews are worthless and they say more about the poster than the product. Possibly a job for Trading Standards?

Yes, some people are a bit daft - I paid under £15 for a small tea trolley (to help move stuff around whilst my leg was broken) - and one review, which I ignored,  was that "it was not really suitable for office use" .    What did they expect for £14.99 ? ? ?

I have also come across a couple of people giving lowest score on Trip Advisor after they did not turn up for hotel rooms but were still charged  - well what do they expect the hotel to do - go and offer the vacant room around at the local pub at midnight ? or just go bust ? One even admitted that he had confirmed that he would be arriving late earlier the same day .........