MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s competition watchdog has fined travel website TripAdvisor 500,000 euros ($613,000) for publishing misleading information in its reviews, it said on Monday.
The fine follows a seven-month investigation into whether the website takes appropriate measures to avoid publishing false opinions while presenting them as genuine, following a complaint from consumers and hotel owners in Italy.
The Rome-based regulator said the U.S. company and its Italian arm should stop “publishing misleading information about the sources of its reviews”, adding that the practice started in September 2011.
TripAdvisor, a travel website that gathers readers’ reviews of hotels and restaurants around the world, said it disagreed with the antitrust authority’s decision and would appeal it.
“Our systems and procedures are extremely efficient in protecting consumers from a small minority of people who try to con our system,” it said in a statement.
The authority gave TripAdvisor 90 days to respond, saying its move was aimed at ensuring consumers do not make decisions based on information that does not correspond to reality.
The Italian fine is the latest in competition troubles that have hit travel websites.
Earlier this month, the European Commission said online travel agent booking.com offered to scrap a practice which prevents hotels from giving discounts to its rivals in a bid to end investigations by authorities in France, Sweden and Italy.