The food industry has urged the consumer watchdog to look into the regulation of online peer-review websites.
Restaurant and Catering Australia (R&CA) has approached the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about popular review-based websites, including TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon and Yelp, which can be abused by customers and competitors.
The industry association is also concerned inaccurate rating systems caused by biased algorithms may unfairly sway users’ decisions when choosing a restaurant or catering provider.
R&CA chief executive officer John Hart said the food industry wants an investigation into the ratings methods of review-based websites to ensure they reflect the true views of consumers.
“If you look at the reviews you can certainly see that there are still vexatious ones getting through,” John said, as reported in Hospitality Magazine.
“It’s very frustrating for a business particularly if they know a review is vexatious and the ones we hear about most often are the ones from a disgruntled ex-staff member.
“People will try to get back at a business by posting a nasty review and those sorts of things happen reasonably regularly, but the sites won’t take them down because they say they don’t own the data, they just publish what other people give them.”
R&CA is also concerned about companies paying for positive reviews – a trend that is growing in popularity overseas, particularly in the US.
“They go around basically outsourcing it to as many people as they can on the network and pay them a fee to load up positive reviews so their rating will increase,” John said, as reported in Hospitality News.
“So we believe its very much open to manipulation.”