The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a final consent order against dietary supplements firm The Bountiful Company for manipulating reviews on Amazon.com product pages.
Bountiful was alleged to have used ‘#1 Best Seller’ and ‘Amazon’s Choice’ badges to misguided consumers into thinking that some of its recently launched dietary supplements had higher product and average ratings, as well as more reviews.
Bohemia, New York-based company Bountiful manufactures different types of vitamins, minerals and other nutritional supplements.
The company sells its products to e-commerce giant Amazon, which then sells those items to consumers via its online platform Amazon.com.
FTC claimed that the company misused Amazon’s feature that enables vendors to create or request a “variation” relationship with similar products or ones that have minor differences, including colour, quantity, flavour or size.
According to FTC, Bountiful was also involved in performing “deceptive tactics” by combining its newly launched products with different well-established products that already had higher ratings, more reviews and specific badges on Amazon.com.
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This case of ‘review hijacking’ was registered by FTC on 16 February 2023.
It was handled by the staff attorneys working under the FTC’s Advertising Practices Division.
The final consent order was approved by four to zero votes by commission members on 28 March 2023.
This was FTC’s first law enforcement case related to review hijacking, under which a marketer was involved in the repurposing or stealing of reviews of another product.
The company is required to pay a monetary relief of $600,000 to the consumers as per the final consent order.
Bountiful has been prohibited from using “deceptive review tactics” to manipulate the decision and thinking of consumers regarding its products and services. The order has barred the company from initiating similar cases of misrepresentation in future.