Hotels and restaurants that post positive online reviews about themselves under false identities could face criminal prosecution when consumer protection laws are strengthened next year.
Businesses which write fake blog entries or create wesbites purporting to be from customers will fall foul of a European directive banning them from "falsely representing oneself as a consumer".
From December 31, when the change becomes law in the UK, they can be named and shamed by trading standards or taken to court.
A recent investigation found that poorly-rated travel establishments could lift their reputations from one to four stars in hours by posting fictional positive reviews.
David Bremner, the owner of the Drumnadrochit hotel near Loch Ness admitted to posting a fake review of his own venue on the TripAdvisor site, calling it "outstanding" and "charming".
After he was exposed, Bremner said: "Maybe I shouldn't have done it. But I don't think it's that big a deal."
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