The Bountiful Company, manufacturers of supplements sold under the brand names Nature’s Bounty, Sundown, Osteo Bi-Flex, and others, allegedly misrepresented reviews of their new products on Amazon.com.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged The Bountiful Company, which is now owned by Nestle, with review hijacking’ on February 16. Review hijacking is a marketing strategy in which a marketer captures or repurposes reviews of another product.
The case represents the FTC’s first legal challenge to review usurpation.’ In 2020 and 2021, according to a press release from the Commission, The Bountiful Company requested that Amazon establish multiple variation relationships for its dietary supplement products with various formulations.
Amazon permits its vendors and third-party merchants to request ‘variation’ relationships between substantially comparable products. However, the products can only be differentiated in certain ways, such as size, color, quantity, or flavor.
The FTC notes that the supplement manufacturer merged its new products on Amazon with substantially different well-established products, which may have misled customers into believing that the new products had better reviews, higher ratings, and #1 Best Seller/Amazon Choice badges.
According to the FTC complaint, The Bountiful Company began selling Nature’s Bounty Brain Superfood capsules and Nature’s Bounty Brain Focus chewable tablets to Amazon for sale on Amazon.com in March 2021. [Bountiful] requested that Amazon establish a variant relationship between these products and an existing product, Nature’s Bounty Ginkgo Biloba 120mg capsules. The products’ formulations varied.” The Bountiful Company started selling Sundown Kids Vitamin C Gummies to Amazon in the same month.
“[Bountiful] requested that Amazon establish a relationship between [Sundown Kids Vitamin C Gummies] and an existing product, Sundown Kids Disney and Pixar Toy Story 4 Multivitamin Gummies. The products were formulated differently. The products had a total of 7,546 ratings and 344 reviews as of May 26, 2022, with only 1,143 ratings and 38 reviews for the Sundown Kids Vitamin C Gummies, according to the FTC’s complaint.
On April 10, following a period for public comment, the FTC authorized the final order against The Bountiful Company. The Commission has therefore ordered the company to pay $600,000 to customers. Additionally, Bountiful is prohibited from making similar misrepresentations and from altering customers’ perceptions of its products by establishing a variation relationship.