Nutritional supplement company Bountiful Co. has agreed to pay a $600,000 fine proposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) following allegations that it made its products on Amazon appear to have more reviews and higher ratings than they actually did. According to the FTC, the case marks its first enforcement action against the practice of "review hijacking," in which marketers make reviews for one product appear to apply to another.
The FTC said Bountiful, which owns brands like Nature’s Bounty vitamins, used Amazon's "variation" tool to merge listings for its Stress Comfort supplements and other products that already had ratings and reviews with those of different products. Bountiful was also accused of taking advantage of Amazon badges such as "#1 Best Seller" or "Amazon’s Choice" for its own products.
In 2021, Bountiful was acquired by Nestle SA’s health science unit. Upon settling with the FTC, Bountiful said it had avoided "a lengthy and costly legal challenge." Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “Boosting your products by hijacking another product’s ratings or reviews is a relatively new tactic, but is still plain old false advertising.”
The FTC's proposed order also prohibits Bountiful from creating "variation relationships" that distort what consumers think about its products or services. After a period of public comment, the FTC will decide whether to make the agreement final. A spokesperson for Amazon said it would continue to assist enforcement agencies in "holding bad actors accountable."
Robert Freund, an attorney focused on advertising and e-commerce issues, said the FTC has taken a closer look at customer reviews as they have grown in importance for consumers. He noted that Amazon has done much to combat fake reviews, but the problem persists. In conclusion, the case serves as an example of the importance of authenticity and transparency in the marketplace.