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Posted February 24, 2023

Bountiful Charged with “Review Hijacking,” False Advertising of Nature’s Bounty Supplements on Amazon

On February 16, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged The Bountiful Company (formerly NBTY), whose brands include Nature’s Bounty and Sundown, with deceptively using Amazon reviews and badges (such as “#1 Best Seller” and “Amazon’s Choice”) from its products with higher sales to promote the company’s less successful products, a tactic referred to as “review hijacking.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, Bountiful asked Amazon to create variation relationships for supplements with different formulations. Typically, product variations allow consumers to shop for a product that may be available with different attributes, such as color, size, quantity or flavor – such as choosing between a 100-count or 200-count bottle of capsules - but that are otherwise the same. When a consumer selects a different product in the variation relationship, the content of the product detail page, such as the pictured product, the product description, or the price, may change.

However, according to the FTC, Bountiful created variation relationships for different products, combining products with either lower ratings or sales with more successful products. According to an internal company email cited in the complaint, Bountiful “created variations with some of our [new products] to try and ramp them faster as they were NOT selling and we wanted to give them a little boost in R[atings]&R[eviews] to gain visibility and allow them to also borrow the ‘amazon choice’ badge and best seller badge which worked.”

For example, in March 2020, Bountiful requested that Amazon combine two new products that were not selling well and had poor reviews, Nature’s Bounty Stress Comfort Mood Booster and Nature’s Bounty Stress Comfort Peace of Mind Stress Relief Gummies, with three better-established products, all of which had different formulations from each other, and the new products. A company email cited in the FTC’s complaint noted, “Unfortunately people d[id] not love the [Stress Comfort] product[s],” but sales “spiked the second we variated the pages and they continue to grow.” Additional variation relationships were created for a number of other Nature’s Bounty products, including apple cider vinegar supplements, various B vitamin, vitamin D and vitamin C supplements, and its zinc and magnesium supplements.

Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Samuel Levine stated in a news release about the charges: “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 prohibits Bountiful from making similar misrepresentations in the future, and require the company to pay $600,000 as monetary relief for consumers. The Bountiful Company, formerly named NBTY, Inc. and Nature’s Bounty, Inc., has previously been charged with violating an FTC order by making false and misleading health claims about products.

For tests of related products, see ConsumerLab’s Reviews of Apple Cider Vinegar Supplements, B Vitamin Supplements, Vitamin D Supplements, Vitamin C Supplements, Magnesium Supplements, and Zinc Supplements and Lozenges.

For more information, use the link below.

FTC Charges Supplement Marketer with Hijacking Ratings and Reviews on and Using Them to Deceive Consumers

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