NEW YORK, January 27, 2022 7 – point moderation process to ensure they are real and authentic.”
However, NAD has recommended that the advertiser discontinue certain express and implied claims related to the advertiser’s message that Best Company is an independent and unbiased review site. NAD also recommended that Best Company limit its use of the “100% verified” claim to only reviews where the reviewer is verified as a bona fide purchaser of the product.
These claims, which appeared on BestCompany.com, have been challenged by SmileDirectClub, LLC (SDC), a national provider of clear aligner therapy (“invisible braces”) that uses a tele-dentistry platform and sells related goods and services. Best Company offers general information, reviews and recommendations for a variety of products and services, including the “invisible braces” category and for specific brands within the category such as SDC and its competitors.
NAD has determined that the advertiser has a reasonable basis to assert that all reviews posted on BestCompany.com are “moderated through a proprietary, technology-enabled 7-point moderation process to ensure they are real and authentic”. NAD was satisfied that the advertiser took reasonable steps to avoid posting inciting reviews so that it could reasonably claim that it had a process in place to ensure that the reviews posted were “real and authentic”.
Nonetheless, NAD has determined that Best Company does not support express claims and implied messages that its website is independent and unbiased, as its ranking criteria result in a higher score for companies that have a partnership with Best Company. . NAD noted that an independent and unbiased ranking of products, even based on consumer reviews, should be based on reviews representative of the universe of consumer reviews for all companies reviewed and ranked. Further, NAD has concluded that a disclosure explaining the ranking methodology cannot remedy the explicit and implicit misleading message that the rankings are independent.
Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser cease expressly stating that:
- Rankings on the BestCompany.com website “cannot be bought off” or otherwise influenced to “unfairly favor one company over another without a basis of merit”.
- Best Company has “no relationship with companies that guarantee their ranking or score and we never will”.
- “Best Company has never accepted and will never accept payment in exchange for unearned ranking on BestCompany.com.”
- Best Company’s rankings of various companies and their products on BestCompany.com are “honest and unbiased”.
- Best Company is a “Truly Independent and Unbiased Ratings Site”, as well as the modified Best Company offers “Truly Independent and Unbiased Ratings and Reviews”.
NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue implied claims that:
- Best Company does not and never will have any improper dealings with the companies featured, and rankings or scores on BestCompany.com cannot be purchased or obtained through a direct relationship.
- Best Company is not “pay to play”.
- Best Company ranks the “Byte” clear aligner brand over all other brands based on its “expert recommendation” and not because of Best Company’s actual undisclosed relationship with Byte.
NAD has determined that a reasonable take away from the “100% verified” claim, as it is used to describe Best Company’s review verification process, is that all reviews posted on BestCompany.com receive the same level of examination. Although the advertiser has demonstrated that all reviews go through a pre-publication moderation process to confirm that the review is from a person and not a bot, not all published reviews go through the process to become “verified customer reviews”, i.e. further confirmation that the individual is a paying customer of the company under review.
As such, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its advertising to label only reviews that have undergone additional verification (“Verified Customer Reviews”) as “100% Verified” and to use the claim exclusively when has verified that the person writing the review is a bona fide purchaser of the product.
Finally, during the process, the advertiser voluntarily agreed to remove and edit two videos about SDC and its products and programs. Accordingly, NAD did not examine the claims of these videos on the merits.
In its announcer statement, Best Company said it “will comply with NAD’s decision.” Additionally, the advertiser stated that while it “disagrees with NAD’s view that Best Company cannot present itself as a ‘truly independent and unbiased review site.’ Best Company respects the NAD and its role in regulating national advertising and will comply with its recommendations.
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