The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recently examined advertising claims by Straight Smile, LLC (Byte), seller of direct-to-consumer teeth aligners, recommending that Byte provide clear disclosures when reviewers of its product receive incentives in exchange for posting reviews.
Disclosing Incentivized Customer Reviews
The NAD determined that Byte’s blanket disclosure that the customer reviews published on its website “may include ones where known purchasers were given free product in exchange for their honest opinions” failed to adequately disclose to consumers that a particular review had been incentivized. The NAD recommended Byte provide “clear and conspicuous disclosures” for each incentivized review.
Addressing reviews on third-party site BestCompany.com, the NAD determined that because of the promotional relationship between Byte and Best Company, reviews of Byte on BestCompany.com amounted to ads for which Byte bore ultimate responsibility. Accordingly, the NAD recommended that the Byte clearly disclose incentivized reviews and the promotional relationship on Byte’s product page.
Disclosing Promotional Relationships
The NAD also took issue with how the relationship between Byte and Best Company was disclosed on Best Company’s page ranking various brands of teeth aligners. Best Company provided an “Income Disclosure” link at the top of each webpage informing customers that some of the companies it reviews pay Best Company for promotion. The NAD determined this notice failed to adequately disclose the advertising relationship to consumers because it was hidden unless visitors clicked on a vaguely titled “Income Disclosure” link. Further, information provided failed to disclose the specific companies that paid Best Company for the rankings. The NAD concluded that this type of inconspicuous blanket disclosure failed to notify consumers of Byte’s promotional relationship with Best Company and recommended that Byte either discontinue its advertising on BestCompany.com or clearly disclose the payment relationship.
NAD’s decision provides another reminder that it falls on advertisers to ensure that all incentivized reviews and advertising relationships are clearly and conspicuously disclosed to consumers.