Emails trip up Meriton
MERITON could be fined millions of dollars after the Federal Court ruled it engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by stopping negative reviews of its serviced apartments from appearing on TripAdvisor.
In a ruling handed down yesterday, Justice Mark Moshinsky said that Meriton “deliberately and systematically” provided TripAdvisor with incorrect email addresses for unhappy guests, or did not send them at all.
Meriton, which is owned by property mogul Harry Triguboff, could face fines of up to $1.1 million per breach of consumer law. A date is yet to be set for a penalty hearing, which will also determine the number of breaches.
TripAdvisor can contact customers for reviews using email addresses supplied by businesses. But Justice Moshinsky said Meriton regularly added the letters “MSA” to the address of guests who complained or were thought likely to complain, ensuring the emails never arrived.
“This practice was standard across the organisation and, from January 2015, was reflected in Meriton’s standard operating procedure for checking out a guest,” Justice Moshinsky said.
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission brought the case.
ACCC commissioner Sarah Court yesterday said that many consumers base their decisions on information on influential review sites such as TripAdvisor.
Meriton’s general counsel Joseph Callaghan said the decision was “disappointing”.
This company was reviewing the judgment and considering its options.