85% of British hospitality businesses fall victim to malicious and fake online reviews, finds BHA

01/12/2017 - 07:00
Hospitality businesses are increasingly worried about malicious and fake online reviews with many saying that the reviews have been used to blackmail them, according to a new study from the British Hospitality Association (BHA).

The survey found that 85% of hospitality businesses have been victim to fake online reviews intended to harm – up from 65% in the BHA’s 2015 report.

The survey, which measured responses from restaurants and hotels, found that 71% felt that reviews sites were useful for their business.

This figure was 9% down on two years ago, a drop which the BHA suggested could stem from businesses now being worried about the financial consequences of “fake, negative and malicious” reviews

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “Online reviews sites are hugely important for the reputations of hospitality businesses and allow consumers to make informed decisions.

“However, the relentless and largely unregulated growth of the digital intermediaries means that hospitality businesses in the real world – who often pay large commissions to these sites on bookings - are at the mercy of these firms.

“More must be done to tackle fake and malicious reviews and provide greater transparency provided in the ratings systems.”

Other findings from the study included that online platforms were not perceived as helpful by businesses dealing with fake negative reviews, with more than 60% of respondents saying they were ‘not helpful’ or ‘not very helpful’.

Half of businesses said that the threat of a bad online review had been used to blackmail them into giving a refund to the customer. When asked if review sites were helpful in dealing with these blackmail attempts, more than 60% respondents said that each of the most popular platforms used by customers were not helpful

More than 65% of respondents to the survey said that transparency was a problem with website rankings based not on reviews but on complicated algorithms that the consumer is unaware of.

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