In one of the first cases of its kind, in which fake positive TripAdvisor reviews were sold to hotels and restaurants, an Italian court has ruled that writing bogus reviews under false identities is a crime and the perpetrator has been jailed.

With most customers of hospitality services checking online reviews before booking hotels and restaurants, operators know only too well the impact these can have on their business.

As it is not possible to opt out of review sites such as TripAdvisor, operators are often concerned about how to deal with deliberately malicious reviews. As well as genuine concerns being raised, there are undoubtedly also bogus reviews posted, sometimes with the intention of blackmailing operators to give discounts. There are steps that can be taken if reviews are libellous, such as bringing a defamation order, but this is not straightforward. Read more about dealing with bad reviews here.

This ruling demonstrates a hard line will be taken in appropriate cases. The World Tourism Organisation commented: “Online reviews play a major role in purchasing decisions, but it’s important everyone plays by the rules.”