If a review site ranks your product as the top in a category, can you advertise that you're “number 1” in that category? The answer may not be as simple as it seems, and two NAD cases – one from three years ago and one from last month – demonstrate why companies can't simply rely on third-party rankings. Instead, they need to look at the methodology behind the rankings to determine whether the review site's conclusions provide a reasonable basis for the claim.
In 2019, NAD recommend that TaxSlayer stop claiming that it was “Rated #1 in the Tax Prep Software Category on Trustpilot” – even though the claim was literally true – because “Trustpilot's collection of user reviews did not provide reliable evidence to support the challenged Rated #1 claim or demonstrate the comparative satisfaction of users of tax preparation software.” Check out our previous post for more details about why NAD was concerned with the ratings methodology.
Last month, NAD recommended that CreditAssociates stop claiming that it was “America's #1 Debt Relief Company” based on Trustpilot reviews – again, even though the claim was literally true – because it continued have concerns over Trustpilot's ratings methodology. Some of the concerns are similar to the ones NAD expressed in the TaxSlayer case, while others are a little different and reflect changes on the Trustpilot platform. Here are a couple highlights from NAD's list of concerns:
- Trustpilot rewards companies that solicit reviews and states that “businesses that regularly invite their customers to write reviews tend to have a higher TrustScore than businesses that don't.” NAD was concerned that “companies that do not actively solicit reviews in accordance with Trustpilot's requirements and receive a certain number of reviews will not even be considered as part of the universe of companies against which Credit Associates is compared.”
- Businesses with a free Trustpilot account can solicit up to 100 reviews per month, while businesses with a paid account can solicit 500 or more, depending on the plan they choose. NAD noted that “in essence, the ranking at issue is influenced by a company's Trustpilot subscription which affords more opportunities to solicit review than companies which do not have a paid subscription.”
Bottom line, according to NAD, “Credit Associates can only be confident that its own reviews represent the opinions of its own consumers as the same cannot be said about the companies against which it is being compared. Consumers can be misled because they are not aware of the lack of representativeness of reviews, a fatal flaw given the strength of the challenged claim.”
Notably, although NAD recommended that the company stop the #1 claim, NAD didn't seem to take issue with a claim that the company had achieved a “4.9 out of 5 based on 8,641 reviews” on Trustpilot. This suggests that companies may be able to make monadic claims based on their ratings on Trustpilot, but both this and the previous TaxSlayer case demonstrate that it may not be possible to make comparative claims based on those ratings.
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