Regulation

FTC Weighs Probe Into TripAdvisor’s Deleted Reviews

TripAdvisor could be in hot water with federal regulators over its decision to delete negative reviews on its site, according to news in USA Today on Wednesday (Nov. 22).

Following an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may launch a probe into TripAdvisor over claims the site deleted negative travel reviews for destinations where injuries, rapes, deaths and other dangerous activity occurred.

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis) reportedly received a letter by the FTC last week confirming that the Commission is looking into the matter, after Baldwin called for such action.

“The Commission has a strong interest in protecting consumer confidence in the online marketplace, including the robust online market for hotel and travel,” said FTC Acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen in the letter. “When consumers are unable to post honest reviews about a business, it can harm other consumers whose abilities to make well-informed purchase decisions are hindered and harm businesses that work hard to earn positive reviews.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s investigation, published on Nov. 1, found multiple instances in which TripAdvisor deleted reviews warning travelers of dangerous situations.

One of those posts was made by Dawn Allison regarding the Rams Head Tavern in Baltimore. She warned that she found a hidden camera in the women’s bathroom and posted a review of the establishment on TripAdvisor, only to find that the post had been deleted within a day. Allison said she received an email from TripAdvisor notifying her that the post did not meet website guidelines.

In another case, a woman who drowned in a pool at a resort in Mexico has led to dozens of people coming forward about their own travel reviews regarding the incident being deleted on TripAdvisor. A lawyer representing the family of the woman who drowned said about 30 people have called him to tell him about their deleted posts.

In response to public scrutiny and a possible FTC investigation into the matter, TripAdvisor launched a warning system that signals potential safety concerns at resorts based on media coverage of incidents at the location. The firm said it will roll out additional tools and services to address the matter moving forward.

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