A website for The Skinny Food Co, www.theskinnyfoodco.com, seen on 2 September 2020, included a web page with the product heading “Garlic Mayo #NotGuilty Zero Calorie Sugar Free Sauce - The Skinny Food Co - 425ml”. Halfway down the page was a section headed “Customer Reviews” underneath which were five stars, followed by text which stated “Based on 16 reviews” and a link to “Write a review”. There were 16 reviews underneath, which each showed five stars.
IssueThe complainant, who believed the advertiser did not publish negative reviews, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
ResponseNot Guilty Food Co Ltd said that there had been no reviews on their website for some time. They said that reviews that had used foul language, made false claims or that were repeatedly left would be automatically marked as spam by their review systems and would not be published. Not Guilty Food Co said they were not able to remove reviews themselves.
AssessmentUpheld The ASA considered that consumers would understand the five stars to be the average review comprised of all the reviews received, both positive and negative. We considered consumers would expect that the content would not have been amended beyond what was necessary ? for example, offensive material or reviews unrelated to the product featured in the ad. We understood that the complainant had raised concerns because they had left a negative review, which had been removed. We assessed the complainant’s one star review, which we considered was relevant to the advertised product and did not contain any offensive material. However, we noted that all of the product reviews listed on the page were five stars out of five and we therefore understood that the complainants review had been removed from the ad. While we considered that it was reasonable for the advertiser to have a moderation policy in place, which we understood in this case was operated by a computerised system, any moderation which removed genuine reviews that were relevant to the product and did not contain offensive material was unlikely to be acceptable. We considered that removing a genuine review meant the ad did not present an accurate picture of customer response to the product and we therefore concluded the ad was misleading. The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 The standards objectives, insofar as they relate to advertising, include:
a) that persons under the age of 18 are protected;
b) that material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder is not included in television and radio services;
c) that the proper degree of responsibility is exercised with respect to the content of programmes which are religious programmes;
d) that generally accepted standards are applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from inclusion in such services of offensive and harmful material;
e) that the inclusion of advertising which may be misleading, harmful or offensive in television and radio services is prevented;
f) that the international obligations of the United Kingdom with respect to advertising included in television and radio services are complied with [in particular in respect of television those obligations set out in Articles 3b, 3e,10, 14, 15, 19, 20 and 22 of Directive 89/552/EEC (the Audi Visual Media Services Directive)];
g) that there is no use of techniques which exploit the possibility of conveying a message to viewers or listeners, or of otherwise influencing their minds, without their being aware, or fully aware, of what has occurred"
Section 319(2). (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Not Guilty Food Co Ltd to ensure that genuine product reviews were not removed from their advertising unless it was for reasons consistent with a reasonable moderation policy.