The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) bounced purportedly misleading trampoline marketing claims in a new administrative consent order.
Son “Sonny” Le and his brother Bao “Bobby” Le operated a web of businesses to sell Infinity and Olympus Pro brand trampolines. To market their products, the California-based pair used multiple websites that “prominently” featured logos from allegedly independent review entities such as “Trampoline Safety of America,” the “Bureau of Trampoline Review,” and “Top Trampoline Review,” the FTC said.
The sites claimed to provide objective information, unbiased “expert reviews” of various brands and models, and ratings using factors that included safety and performance. Each site recommended the trampolines sold by the Les and disparaged its competitors. In reality, the websites were all owned and operated by the defendants, the FTC alleged.
The bogus Trampoline Safety of America informed readers that “[w]e highly recommend the Infinity Trampoline. … It is by far one of the safest and best trampolines we’ve reviewed.” The site was touted as “a third-party organization involved in studying the technical aspects of all the major trampoline sites in America,” made up of trampoline gymnastic coaches, structural engineers and other professionals with the goal of educating the public about “the safeties of trampolines.”
To settle the charges of violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Les agreed to a proposed consent order that prohibited them from engaging in the wide range of misrepresentations alleged in the complaint. In addition, they must make clear, conspicuous disclosures in close proximity to an endorsement of any unexpected connection between the endorser and the company or anyone associated with it. A clear and conspicuous disclosure is also included wherever the Les review a product that they sell or that competes with one they sell.
To read the complaint and the proposed consent order in In the Matter of Son Le, click here.
Why it matters: The proposed consent order—open for public comment until June 30—provides advertisers with several important takeaways about the importance of disclosing material connections between reviewers and endorsers, and steps to avoid the use of misleading seals, fake testimonials and false reviews.