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Friday, October 10, 2014

ERSP Reviews Advertising for ConsumerAffairs.com, Recommends Marketer Modify Certain Claims

The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has recommended that ConsumerAffairs.com modify certain claims for its website.

ERSP is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The marketer’s advertising was challenged by UnbeatableSale, Inc.

ERSP reviewed online advertising claims for ConsumerAffairs, including:

  • “Consumer Affairs is a consumer news and advocacy organization founded in 1998 by James R. Hood, a veteran Washington, D.C. journalist and public affairs executive. Our website includes consumer news, recall information and tens of thousands of pages of consumer reviews.”
  • “ConsumerAffairs.com is a private, non-governmental entity that empowers consumers by providing a forum for their reviews.”
The challenger also expressed concerns regarding the filtering of reviews on the website; a lack of disclosure to consumers that describes how the ratings system operates; the message that ConsumerAffairs.com is a consumer advocacy organization; and the lack of disclosures describing the material connection between ConsumerAffairs clients and their review pages.

ConsumerAffairs is a website that publishes stories on various topics and compiles consumer news, recall information, consumer resolutions, and company features along with press releases and alerts from different public sources. The site also maintains a publicly searchable database of consumer reviews of companies; each page pertaining to a company on the website includes a five-star “satisfaction rating” based upon complaints and reviews.

As the marketer’s website encompasses all aspects of customer contact, including products, services, sales and complaints, ERSP did not object to the marketer’s characterization of its website as a “… consumer news and advocacy organization.”

ERSP found that the relationship between ConsumerAffairs and its accredited members was not adequately disclosed and thus, recommended the marketer clearly and conspicuously disclose the material connection it has with its accredited members throughout its website.

ERSP also recommended that ConsumerAffairs modify its website to clearly and  conspicuously disclose to visitors of the website that reviews and complaints upon which the satisfaction ratings are based are displayed differently for accredited members and non-accredited members.

The company, in its marketer’s statement, said, “… as part of its continuing effort to provide consumers with the most accurate and updated information, ConsumerAffairs has made a number of modifications to its website that it believes addresses the two recommendations made by ERSP in its decision. ConsumerAffairs appreciates the recommendations received from ERSP regarding the information presented on ConsumerAffairs’ website, and believes that the modifications it has made address ERSP’s concerns and comply with all FTC guidelines.”

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