IS THAT REVIEW FOR REAL OR HAS IT BEEN HIJACKED?
May 16, 2023
Challenging a practice called review hijacking, a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) against The Bountiful Company – which manufactures dietary supplements, including under the Nature’s Bounty and Sundown names – charges that the business “took over” reviews and ratings that consumers had left for other Bountiful products on Amazon.com and falsely attributed them to newer products.
So, what is review hijacking you may ask? Answering that question requires a look at the relationship between companies like Bountiful and Amazon. Bountiful sells its supplements to Amazon, which then sells them to consumers on Amazon.com. Companies like Bountiful can ask Amazon to create “variation relationships” between products that are substantially similar, differing only in narrow ways like color, quantity, or price. The page of a product in one of these variation relationships displays the total number of ratings and reviews and the average star rating for all of the products in the variation relationship. Those products also may share designations likely to attract consumer attention – for example, Amazon’s “#1 Best Seller” or “Amazon’s Choice” badges.
According to Amazon, substantially different products shouldn’t share a variation relationship and the reason for that is clear. It would be deceptive to attribute consumers’ ratings and reviews of one product to a different item. However, Bountiful was able to manipulate the system to create variation relationships for products that were substantially different. That allowed Bountiful to “hijack” the ratings, reviews, and badges of its more popular existing products and attribute them to newer or less popular products. This alleged review hijacking resulted in reviews, ratings, and badges being falsely attributed to newer products or weaker sellers, a practice that violates the FTC Act, and possibly State laws.
Because reviews, ratings, and badges are highly material to consumers, attempts to manipulate the system is looked on with disfavor and can result in legal consequences.
The business lawyers of Lerner & Weiss can help you stay in compliance with reference to your online business operation, and assist you in preventing claims against your company to make sure that your business operates smoothly. Lerner & Weiss proudly serves clients throughout Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Ventura Counties, including Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and Santa Ana.
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