Hospitality businesses in the USA are more likely to sue people who post slanderous comments on sites like TripAdvisor, while others have been forced to pay massive fines for invalidating negative reviews.
A criminal court in Italy sentenced the man to a nine-month jail stint over the ordeal, and he will have to pay $13,000.
The Criminal Court of Lecce decided that using a false identity to write fraudulent reviews violated Italian law, the company said. And TripAdvisor says the case could now see people writing fake reviews in other countries face similar legal action.
TripAdvisor confirmed that it supported the prosecution of PromoSalento by sharing evidence from its in-house fraud investigations and providing support from its Italian legal counsel.
TripAdvisor's Vice President and Associate General Counsel Brad Young praised the ruling, calling it a "landmark ruling for the Internet". "However, this is the first time we have seen the laws being enforced to the point of securing a criminal conviction".
The company said since 2015 it had thwarted 60 different paid review companies across the world. The shift in consumer behaviour has resulted in advice from organisations such as the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, which published guidelines on the responsible use and misuse of ratings and review on digital platforms a year ago.
PromoSalento had attempted to submit over 1,000 reviews on hundreds of hotels and restaurants, TripAdvisor said in an in-depth report.
"The recommendations were developed in collaboration with TripAdvisor, Minube and Yelp and we know that industry collaboration has an important role to play in tackling review fraud". The companies were being offered fake reviews so their profiles could be better.
Disgusting photos highlight the shocking state of some of the rooms in the hotel.
"Each room got worse as we went on and the corridors were filled with water damage, missing light bulbs, manky carpets, graffiti and dodgy looking electrics", one reviewer commented on TripAdvisor. For example, in the European Union, they've been outlawed for more than a decade.
"As this is going on, we are continuing to fix and repair the rooms".
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