TripAdvisor reviews should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Sure, “Nancy4055” from Stoke-on-Trent may seem like a compelling digital pseudonym, and the misspelling of “aubergine parmigiana” as “aubergine parimijan” in her review of Bella Napoli Pizza and Pasta might seem endearingly authentic, but be wary: many TripAdvisor reviews are fake (and even some of their restaurants).
However, the days of the fake review may be coming to an end, following the news that an Italian man has been convicted for selling fake TripAdvisor reviews through his company, PromoSalento.
According to the industry website Morning Advertiser, a criminal court in Lecce, Puglia, ruled that fake online reviews using a false name constituted “criminal conduct” under Italian law. This is the first time a conviction for a fraudulent review has been made anywhere in the world.
The Italian man was sentenced to nine months in prison and charged €8,000 in costs and damages after offering “persistent” false review packages on Italian hotels and restaurants through his company.
TripAdvisor aided the Italian court on the case, offering information from its in-house fraud team and support from its legal council.
In a press release, the company said: “Review fraud is something TripAdvisor takes extremely seriously, employing advanced tracking technology and a dedicated team of investigators to catch paid review companies and prevent them from operating on the site.”
Brad Young, VP associate general counsel at TripAdvisor, also said in the release: “We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet. Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we’ve seen someone sent to jail as a result.”
Sorry Nancy4055, looks like it’s over for you this time.