In November 2017, the Federal Court slammed Meriton’s attempts to deliberately influence ratings of its properties between November 2014 and October 2015, which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said had the effect of creating “a more positive or favourable impression of the quality or amenity of the Meriton properties on the TripAdvisor website”.
At the time, Meriton said it would review the judgement and determine whether to appeal.
This week the case came to a close, with the court ordering it to pay $3 million in penalties over the manipulation of reviews.
“Meriton’s management directed staff to engage in ‘masking’ to stop potentially negative reviews from appearing on TripAdvisor. This gave the impression Meriton accommodation was of a higher standard than otherwise may have been the case,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said.
“People often make purchasing decisions for accommodation based on the rankings and reviews they read on third-party sites like TripAdvisor. Manipulating these reviews is misleading to potential customers, who deserve the full picture when making a booking decision.”
Ms Court added: “This case sends a strong message that businesses can expect ACCC enforcement action if they’re caught manipulating feedback on third-party review websites.”
Meriton has been contacted for comment.
Former Olympic swimmer turned restaurateur Eamon Sullivan previously told My Business about his creative approach to customer service, which he said has had a meaningful impact on the standard of reviews his eateries receive online.