TripAdvisor, a website that gathers reviews of hotels and restaurants from its users, was fined EUR 500,000 (roughly Rs. 3.4 crores) last year by the competition watchdog following an investigation into whether it took appropriate measures to avoid publishing false opinions while presenting them as genuine.
Italy's competition watchdog slapped the fine on the local subsidiary of the popular travel website in December, saying the company's advertising had emphasised "the authentic and genuine nature of the reviews, persuading consumers to believe the information is always reliable and reflects real tourist experiences."
However the US company appealed against the decision, and the fine was overturned by a Rome-based administrative court. The ruling, which was seen by Reuters, was made available to the parties involved in the case on Monday.
"TripAdvisor never asserted that all the opinions were real, even mentioning that verification was impossible and to consider the trend rather than each comment one by one," said the administrative court ruling.
In an emailed statement on Tuesday, TripAdvisor said it was satisfied with the ruling which it said confirmed that it did not mislead readers regarding the source of its reviews. It added that the processes it used to maintain the integrity of its content were extremely effective.
Italy's hotel and restaurant trade association, Federalberghi, expressed its disappointment in the court ruling, which it said confirms that gaps in the country's legislation allows the company to avoid correcting its practices.
Written with agency inputs