A website for Candy Coat, www.lovecandycoat.com, a nail polish company, seen on 2 November 2018, featured a product page for “Rainbow Colour Box”, a selection of nail polishes and accessories.
Underneath the product description, text next to five stars stated “21 reviews”. Beneath, various images of the product, painted nails and nail polish swatches were accompanied by four- and five-star reviews, which included text such as “Great colours, really bright and pigmented. Will definatly [sic] be ordering again!x” and “So happy to come in from work to a nice little delivery. All beautiful colours can’t wait to try them all out and the service has been great from start to finish”.
Two complainants, who understood that negative reviews were not published on the website, challenged whether the image of five stars alongside the claim “21 reviews” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Candy Coat said they had both positive and negative reviews across the website and not all of the reviews were five stars. The reviews with five stars were a true reflection of customers being happy with the product and service. The star ratings related specifically to the product on that page and the rating for one product would not affect the rating for another. They said that they had chosen to display reviews with images towards the top of the page and that, generally, negative reviews did not have photos, so were more likely to be displayed towards the bottom of the page.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand that the star rating on the product page in the ad, and the others like them on the website, related to that product and was an accurate aggregate score of reviews left by customers about the product and service. They would therefore expect that the five-star rating in the ad was the genuine average rating based on all customer reviews submitted and that reviews would not be selectively published solely on the basis of their positivity.
We understood that the complainants believed the aggregate star ratings were not genuine because Candy Coat did not include the ratings given in reviews with lower numbers of stars (negative reviews). Candy Coat said that both positive and negative reviews were featured across the website and that the star rating was a true reflection of their customers’ experiences. However, they did not provide any data showing how they had calculated the aggregate star rating for the advertised product nor documentary evidence to show that the reviews or scores which accompanied it on the page were genuine, such as a comprehensive list of all reviews received. We considered that it may be reasonable for Candy Coat to withhold reviews from publication if they breached a moderation policy – for example, if they contained expletives or did not relate to the product. However, Candy Coat did not provide any information to suggest that they had in place, or enforced, such a policy. As such, we had no explanation as to whether the complainant’s review had been moderated out. We therefore considered that Candy Coat had not provided sufficient evidence to substantiate the five-star score.
In the absence of any evidence to substantiate the overall five-star rating alongside the claim “21 reviews”, we concluded the claim was misleading.
The ad breach CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Candy Coat to ensure that they did not imply that all reviews had been published or were factored into the aggregate score if that was not the case.