NAD Addresses Math Problems in Counting Reviews (Again)

Earlier this year, Prose – a company that makes customized haircare products – brought an NAD challenge against Function – a competitor in the same business – over Function’s claims that it had over 110,000 5-star product reviews. We posted about that decision in March. This week, NAD announced a decision in a challenge that Function brought against Prose over Prose’s claims that it had over 192,000 5-star product reviews.

When a consumer buys a product from Prose, the company solicits star-ratings on various aspects of the customer’s experience after each purchase. Prose may then revise its formulation after receiving feedback. For example, if a customer indicates that she would prefer a stronger fragrance, Prose may make that adjustment on subsequent purchases. The iterative process of reviewing and refining happens every time the customer orders.

NAD was concerned that reasonable consumers would not expect that the number of reviews is the result of a back-and-forth process of altering and re-reviewing products to increase customer satisfaction. In fact, 5-star reviews are achieved as customers refine and customize the product.” Thus, any claim based on aggregated product reviews should indicate the way in which this level of customer satisfaction is achieved to avoid conveying a misleading message.”

Function also argued that Prose shouldn’t be able to cherry-pick only positive reviews to share with consumers. NAD noted that Prose clearly labels the reviews as Featured Reviews’ and, as a result, the context of the reviews presented does not reasonably convey the message that Prose only has positive reviews, but features the reviews as testimonials.” NAD cautioned, though, that advertisers must have independent evidence to support any claims in testimonials.

As we noted in our March post, companies are employing new strategies to solicit reviews and make claims based on those reviews. At the same time, many of those companies are also carefully watching what their competitors are doing and bringing challenges when they think those competitors go too far. We expect to see these challenges continue.