May 23, 2023
What is "Review Hijacking"?
The FTC's Enforcement Action Against The Bountiful Company
The FTC continues its crackdown on deceptive consumer reviews.
In February 2023, the FTC filed an enforcement action against The Bountiful Company, alleging a new type of endorsement deception, "review hijacking."
Bountiful sells Natures Bounty and Sundown-branded nutritional supplements to Amazon, and Amazon resells the supplements to consumers on Amazon.com.
Generally, “review hijacking” occurs when a marketer steals or repurposes reviews provided for another product.
In its February 2023 complaint, the FTC alleged that Bountiful engaged in “review hijacking” by merging some of its new products on Amazon.com with different, established products that had more and more favorable ratings, reviews, and badges.
Bountiful accomplished "review hijacking" by using an Amazon tool that allows sellers to request "variation" relationships among different products and SKUs.
How Does Review Hijacking Deceive Consumers?
The result was the false impression among consumers that Bountiful's new products enjoyed favorable ratings, reviews, and badges that actually applied to older, established, and successful Bountiful products.
Specifically, the FTC's complaint alleged the following (among other allegations).
- Reviewers were not actual users or endorsers of products but instead had used and endorsed a different product.
- Products identified as number one best sellers were not number one best sellers.
- Products that appeared to have earned an Amazon's Choice badge and not earned an Amazon's Choice Badge.
The Consent Order requires Bountiful to pay $600,000 in monetary relief (fines) and future marketing restrictions.
The Bountiful case is another in a line of FTC enforcement actions targeting deceptive customer reviews, including fake reviews, failure to disclose material connections with reviews, and negative review suppression.
It's clear that the FTC is concerned regarding the increasing reliance consumers have on product reviews when considering purchase decisions.