Australian hotelier Meriton fined $2.2 million for manipulating TripAdvisor ratings

Between November 2014 and October 2015, Meriton Serviced Apartments falsified or held back the contact details of customers it thought might be critical at 13 properties, Australia’s Federal Court found. (Courtesy Meriton Suites Broadbeach Facebook)
Updated 31 July 2018
0

Australian hotelier Meriton fined $2.2 million for manipulating TripAdvisor ratings

SYDNEY: The Australian hotel operator owned by billionaire Harry Triguboff was fined A$3 million ($2.2 million) on Tuesday for misleading customers, after it withheld unhappy guests’ details from travel site TripAdvisor to avoid bad reviews.
Between November 2014 and October 2015, Meriton Serviced Apartments falsified or held back the contact details of customers it thought might be critical at 13 properties, Australia’s Federal Court found.
The company’s booking software allowed staff to add letters to customers’ email addresses to stop TripAdvisor from reaching them if they had made complaints during their stay. It also held back reviews during maintenance periods at the hotels.
On Tuesday, the court imposed the A$3 million fine, which is payable within a month.
This is about a fifth of what the judge had said the maximum levy could be, A$14.3 million, but higher than the A$330,000-A$400,000 Meriton had suggested it should pay.
“Meriton’s conduct created an unduly favorable impression,” Justice Mark Moshinsky said in a written judgment.
“The contravening conduct occurred on a large scale, and the TripAdvisor website, where the misleading impression was created, attracted a very large number of consumers. In these circumstances, I consider that a large penalty is required.”
Meriton did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The company had previously disputed that the practice had any effect on its TripAdvisor rating and it stopped withholding customers details as soon Triguboff — who was rated Australia’s wealthiest man in 2016 — found out.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which brought the proceedings against Meriton, had initially sought a A$20 million penalty.
“This case sends a strong message that businesses can expect ACCC enforcement action if they’re caught manipulating feedback on third party review websites,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said in a statement.


Hello Helsinki: 48 hours in the Finnish capital

The Finnish Capital, Helsinki, shot from above. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 November 2018
0

Hello Helsinki: 48 hours in the Finnish capital

  • The best way to explore the city center is on foot, walking around beautiful, clean streets and taking in the fresh air
  • The best-known landmark is Senate Square and its surroundings, which make up the oldest part of central Helsinki

DUBAI: Access to Helsinki has just become easier for Gulf travelers thanks to the introduction of a new route from the UAE to the Finnish capital. Last month, budget carrier flydubai launched its Dubai-to-Helsinki flights, offering the best connection from Saudi Arabia as well.
Our first port of call after the six-hour trip was the utterly enchanting Hotel Kämp, arguably the best-known hotel in Helsinki — after all, it has been around for over 130 years. The classy, comfortable five-star property is known as a place to see and be seen.
While there, do check out Kämp Spa, where saunas are, of course, available. (There are almost as many saunas as there are people in Finland.) Kämp Spa offers two options: the eucalyptus-fragrance grotto steam sauna and a traditional Finnish one.
The best way to explore the city center is on foot, walking around beautiful, clean streets and taking in the fresh air. The best-known landmark is Senate Square and its surroundings, which make up the oldest part of central Helsinki. You can take in the glorious architecture of Helsinki Cathedral, while also viewing the Government Palace, the main building of Helsinki University, and Sederholm House, Helsinki’s oldest building, dating back to 1757.

For shoppers, Helsinki is home to one of the world’s most exciting and influential design scenes, and a treasure trove for unique pieces. Try TRE, which stocks over 300 brands of well-known classics as well as mostly homegrown products — including fashion, jewelry and furniture — from new designers.
Be warned, though: Helsinki is expensive. Very expensive. So you’re probably better off investing in a cool design piece for the home rather than the usual gifts and gadgets. You’ll leave with something memorable that’s high-quality and, of course, unique.
For something on the quirkier (and cheaper) side, second-hand clothes store UFF has chains across the city, where you’ll find some gems that are as good as new.
Dining out in the city also doesn’t come cheap, but it is an experience to savor. For casual snacking, The Old Market Hall sells cheese, beautifully fresh fish (we’d recommend the salmon), fruit and veg, and has cute little cafés.

For dinner, it’s worth treating yourself. Garden by Olo is an official ‘spin-off’ of the Michelin starred Olo and serves Nordic ingredients fused with Asian elements.
One of the newer eateries on the block is Restaurant Andrea at the newly opened Hotel St. George. Here, Nordic and Anatolian kitchens come together to offer a variety of sharing plates, inspired by both cuisines.
If you fancy taking in some of Finland’s stunning scenery, head to one of the national forests close to Helsinki. Nuuksio National Park — forests and lakes spread over Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Vihti — is easy to get to by public transport, and features eight marked trails for hiking in the freshest of air.

If you are visiting for more than a couple of days, then it is well worth exploring Lapland, the official home of Santa Claus. You’ll need to take a one-hour flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi.
If time is tight, try a reindeer sleigh and husky sled experience, where you can interact with the animals on farms and enjoy rides through the snowy forests.
There’s so much more to see and do than is mentioned here, of course. We’re sure we’ll return to Finland one day, it’s definitely a trip worth making. Just don’t forget to pack your thermals.