Son “Sonny” Le and Bao “Bobby” Le—owners and marketers of the Infinity and Olympus Pro brand trampolines—recently agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that they deceived consumers by directing them to review websites that claimed to be independent but, in fact, were owned and controlled by the Les. According to the complaint, the Les owned and operated websites called Trampoline Safety of America, the Bureau of Trampoline Review, and Top Trampoline Review. Each site contained favorable reviews of Infinity and Olympus Pro trampolines and falsely purported to be run by “third-party organization[s] involved in studying the technical aspects of all the major trampoline sites in America” and comprised of structural engineers, trampoline gymnastic coaches, and professionals. The FTC also charged that Bobby Le posted online reviews that appeared to be from an ordinary trampoline owner, praising Infinity and Olympus Pro trampolines without disclosing his connection to the products he promoted.

Under the proposed consent order, the Les are prohibited from making any of the above misrepresentations and are required to disclose clearly, conspicuously and in close proximity to each endorsement any unexpected connection between an endorser and the company (or any associated with it). Any product reviews posted by the Les must also clearly and conspicuously disclose the fact that they sell the product, or it competes with one they sell.

TIP: This case is another example of the FTC’s increased activity with respect to endorsements and online review activity based on the principles set forth in its endorsement and testimonial guidelines. The action drives home that product reviews cannot conceal the reviewer’s material connection to the product at issue or mislead consumers as to the reviewer’s independence.