The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rapped online retailer eBuyer over the firm’s "material misleading" use of user submitted product reviews.
A listing for a "Foehn & Hirsch Portable WiFi Internet Radio" was displayed with a 4.5 star customer rating with 17 reviews. One customer was apparently not so pleased with the product and wrote a less favorable review.
When the review didn’t appear, they complained to the ASA on the basis that the displayed reviews created a "favourable impression" rather than a representative sample.
eBuyer said only that the reviews were approved by project managers and suggested that positive reviews were "most useful" (for sales no doubt). The ASA wasn’t having any of it.
We considered that negative reviews were likely to be as useful to consumers as positive reviews," they said noting that: "by omitting negative reviews, Ebuyer created a favourable impression that was likely to mislead consumers into purchasing the product."
The watchdog ruled the ad couldn’t appear in the current form and ordered eBuyer "not to mislead consumers by selecting material to create a favourable impression."
With that the message is clear. If retailers are going to use user submitted reviews then it’s the full monty or none at all.
The watchdog also noted that there wasn’t any information as to how the score was calculated but didn’t specific say that this should be the case.