The Bountiful Company, whose brands include Nature’s Bounty and Sundown, will pay back $600,000 after the Federal Trade Commission charged the company with deceiving customers on Amazon.com.
The FTC charged the Bountiful Company with “hijacking ratings and reviews” on the website to make customers think their products were higher rated. The FTC said it used this tactic by “merging its new products on Amazon with different well-established products that had more ratings, reviews, and badges.”
“Boosting your products by hijacking another product’s ratings or reviews is a relatively new tactic, but is still plain old false advertising,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The Bountiful Company is paying back $600,000 for manipulating product pages and deceiving consumers.”
The Bountiful Company was the first to be charged under a new FTC rule prohibiting rating hijacking. Among the rules the FTC now prohibit is the hijacking or repurposing of reviews posted about another product or service.
“Companies should know by now that fake reviews are illegal, but this scourge persists,” said Levine in October.
The FTC accused the company of using an Amazon.com feature that allows variation among similar products. These products, however, must be similar in narrow ways, such as color, size and quantity, the FTC said.
The FTC said the company began selling two new products, Nature’s Bounty Stress Comfort Mood Booster and Nature’s Bounty Stress Comfort Peace of Mind Stress Relief Gummies, in 2020. The FTC said that the Countiful Company then requested that Amazon combine these products with three existing products.
“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,” the company said in an email released by the FTC.
A message has been left with the Bountiful Company for their reaction to the fine.