Online retailer eBuyer’s website featured the “Foehm & Hirsch WiFi Internet Radio” alongside four and a half stars and “17 Reviews” A consumer referred this to the ASA as all 17 reviews were positive. Were they fairly representative or had there been some review engineering? Omar Bucchioni reviews the ASA verdict.
Topic: Misleading advertising
Who: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Ebuyer (UK) Ltd
When: December 2011
Law stated as at: 26 January 2012
Recently, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has investigated a case concerning Ebuyer.com website which stated “Foehn & Hirsch Portable WiFi Internet Radio (Black)” and showed four and a half stars. Further text stated “17 reviews”.
A complainant, who saw the ad on 17 September 2011, challenged whether the claim “17 reviews” alongside the four and a half stars was misleading, because it was believed that the reviews displayed were selected to create a favourable impression.
What Ebuyer had to say
Ebuyer (UK) Ltd (Ebuyer), one of the largest internet retailers of electrical and computer products in the UK, said that reviews were submitted by customers and approved by project managers. They said current filters were pre-set to show those ratings which were most useful but that this could change and that, unless they showed the lowest rating first, reviews would always be more positive than negative.
What the ASA had to say
The ASA considered Ebuyer’s comments; but took the view that negative reviews were likely to be as useful to consumers as well as positive reviews.
In addition, the ASA understood that the complainant had in fact submitted a negative review which had not been displayed.
The ASA felt that most readers would understand the claim “17 reviews”, alongside the four and a half stars out of five, to mean that the reviews displayed were representative of the subjective opinion of customers. By omitting negative reviews, Ebuyer created a favourable impression that was likely to mislead consumers into purchasing the product.
In addition, the ASA did not receive any information as to how the said four and a half star score was actually calculated.
In light of the above, the ASA found the claim to be materially misleading in that it breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 and 3.6 (Misleading advertising).
Why this matters:
This is quite an important decision which is going to affect all internet websites where star scores and reviews are displayed. Advertisers must be careful when using filters and other technology features as to avoid misleading consumers by selecting material (e.g. feedback provided by previous consumers) to create a favourable impression on other consumers which may affect their decision into buying a product.
More information is available here.