The US Federal Trade Commission have handed out a punishment for the first time ever, to The Bountiful Company, manufacturers of Nature’s Bounty vitamins. Between 2020 and 2021, they were caught deliberately cheating customers by using Amazon’s features in a way that made their new vitamin supplements look like they had higher ratings and reviews than what was the truth.
If you ever shopped on Amazon, you’ve interacted with the feature that Bountiful was trying to manipulate. Many of their listings have icons that show different “variations” of the same product. Say you go to the page for Sony’s popular WH-1000XM5 headphones, there will be a feature showing that they’re available in 3 different colours. This feature was made to allow sellers to demonstrate other options such as colour, size, quantity or flavour of what they are selling.
The Bountiful Company took a different approach. According to the FTC, Bountiful used the feature to make their newest products appear more successful than their older ones with different formulas. The FTC even found an email from Bountiful saying that people didn’t really like one of their new vitamins but sales went up quickly after they did something called “variated the pages” and those high sales have continued ever since.
On Monday, the FTC said it had made a decision that Bountiful company must pay a fine of $600,000 for trying to make their products seem better by misrepresenting reviews and ratings from other companies. Samuel Levine, the director for Consumer Protection at FTC declared that this sort of action is considered as false advertising no matter how new it seems.
Amazon says almost all the products on its marketplace have real reviews. But if you come across one that looks fake, press the “Report” button and they will look into it. Amazon is also working with government organizations like the FTC to stop people from writing fake reviews.