Rival claims online reviewers were incentivized to say Pyle’s vacuum sealers don’t suck

Variety: The Spice of Strife?

Portable espresso makers, buffet servers/food warmers, sous vide immersion circulator cookers, something called a “raclette cheese melter” and gummy candy makers – NutriChef, a Pyle Audio brand, has quite a range of idiosyncratic kitchen appliances and gadgets.

Among that product roster are 10 separate vacuum sealer models – count ’em, 10 – the holiday staple kitchen appliance that a certain percentage of Americans is required to give to their second cousins at Christmas. There’s a law somewhere on the books mandating this, we wager.

Pyle Audio, which boasts a bewildering range of product lines – NutriChef for the kitchen, but also cameras, watches, stereos, bug zappers and more – was brought before the National Advertising Division (NAD) over these handy food repackagers. The accuser? Similarly, multifaceted rival vacuum sealer manufacturer Newell Brands (which is into glue, pens, baby car seats, pressure cookers, mason jars and more).

Perhaps companies with this range of product offerings simply can’t ignore each other. But in any case, the accusations were serious: Newell accused Pyle of encouraging its customers to post thousands of positive reviews online in exchange for free products – without letting anyone know about the underlying relationship.

How did it all play out?

Pyle refused “to provide a substantive response to NAD or participate in any way in the self-regulatory process,” NAD alleged. The watchdog group “referred the matter to the appropriate [yet unnamed] government agencies for possible enforcement action.”

The Takeaway

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires companies that provide consideration to individuals who endorse products to follow strict disclosure requirements, so consumers are on notice that the endorsement was tied to a potential payment or product offering to the endorser. If this case is brought to the FTC for its review and enforcement, and the allegations against Pyle are proved to be true, it is likely the FTC would view this case as a potential violation of the FTC Act and require Pyle Audio to disclose future endorsements appropriately. NAD could have at most recommended changes in Pyle’s practices. Now Pyle risks real enforcement action by an authority that has the power to enforce fair and honest advertising standards.