Trampoline selling brothers, Sonny and Bobby Le, are prohibited from engaging in deceptive marketing practices after sending consumers to “independent” product review sites that were actually owned and operated by the brothers’ company.
According to the FTC complaint, the brothers advertised and sold Infinity and Olympus Pro trampolines through various websites. These e-commerce websites displayed logos and seals for the Bureau of Trampoline Review, Trampoline Safety of America, and Top Trampoline Review. As a result, consumers were led to believe that these review sites containing ratings based on safety and performance, were comprised of unbiased, expert reviews. In reality, these organizations were made up by the brothers.
Not only did the websites for these “independent” bodies promote the products being sold by the brothers, but they also made representations regarding product safety. The Trampoline Safety of America site stated the organization included structural engineers. The Bureau of Trampoline Review website stated that safety was one of the bureau’s primary focuses, and that trampolines were put through rigorous testing such as having cars dropped on them. Allegedly, the only product to pass the car test was one of the brands sold by the brothers.
This of course is not the first time that product owners have created fake review sites; however, the safety claims contained in the brothers’ websites take these reviews to a dangerous new height. Despite this, the FTC surprisingly did not impose a monetary penalty. Perhaps no injuries resulted from the brothers’ claims on the review sites, and therefore the FTC was lenient. Instead, the brothers must refrain from engaging in these deceptive practices and must provide compliance reports and remain subject to compliance monitoring. As such, the pair has already made changes to the review sites, including identifying their company as being the owner and author.
Fake review sites and false claims are very common in the consumer product industry, and should they become the focus of an investigation, a company exposes itself to hefty monetary penalties. Be sure to contact an attorney prior to making product claims or participating in review sites.
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