The struggle has attracted atttention in America, Australia and Europe and revolves around how much you can trust review websites.
KwikChex, based on St Stephen’s Road in the town centre, complained about TripAdvisor to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) at the start of September. More than 2,000 hotels and business had contacted the firm for help with allegedly fraudulent and malicious reviews.
TripAdvisor this week removed its slogan “Reviews you can trust”, but said this was down to an ongoing review of its advertising messages.
It would not comment on the ASA investigation.
TripAdvisor is one of the most prominent customer review sites in the world and gets 40 million users a month.
Des Simmons, last year’s head of the Bournemouth Area Hospitality Association (BAHA), said: “There’s a definite negative feeling over this type of website. Hotels have emailed me to say the site has been a nightmare.
“They need to be more responsive to complaints.”
TripAdvisor uses computer programmes to check the honesty of reviews, but it does not vet them individually.
Professor Dimitrios Buhalis from Bournemouth University, a leading expert on e-tourism, said TripAdvisor was now “incredibly important”.
“You get customers blackmailing hotels, hotels writing good things about themselves, and hotels writing bad reviews of other hotels,” he said.
“But in general it works. These are teething problems as far as I am concerned. The public is getting educated about how to read these sites.”
KwikChex is working on defamation cases against posters and is also considering a direct case against TripAdvisor for defamatory emails.
A TripAdvisor spokesman said attempts at fake reviews were rare, while the firm puts warning notices on properties suspected of manipulation.
The company said a “dozens-strong” team of quality control specialists investigated suspicious reviews.
“If the reviews people give didn’t paint an accurate picture, users would not keep coming back,” said the spokesman.