Meriton has been fined by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after being found to have masked potentially damaging reviews on a third party site.
An investigation of the serviced apartment giant has been fined $3 million after staff were found to have deliberately engaged in practices that hindered people posting reviews on TripAdvisor.
This occurred as staff added extra letters to guest email addresses, which were used to send prompting 'Review Express' emails from TripAdvisor.
This action is understood to have been taken if it was suspected that a guest would not leave a favourable review, and meant that the review email never reached their inbox.
It is estimated that this method of receiving TripAdvisor reviews accounts for 30 per cent of the results.
"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."