FTC Charges Trampoline Sellers With Creating Fake Review Sites

Owners of Infinity Trampolines and Olympus Pro Trampolines have settled charges that they deceived consumers by creating fake ratings sites to tout their trampolines, which sold for prices as high as $4,895, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

The phony sites -- which carried the names Trampoline Safety of America, Bureau of Trampoline Review, and Top Trampoline Review -- appeared to offer objective information about trampolines, including expert reviews and ratings based on safety and performance, according to the FTC.

The fake sites also gave their highest marks to Infinity Trampolines and Olympus Pro Trampolines, according to the FTC. For instance, the site Trampoline Safety of America allegedly told readers: "We highly recommend the Infinity Trampoline ... It is by far one of the safest and best trampolines we’ve reviewed."

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The trampolines were sold online at ecommerce sites that allegedly featured links to the fake review sites. Additionally, a "Trampoline Mom" blog carried a comment actually written by company owner, as did a YouTube review, according to the FTC.

Trampoline company owners Son “Sonny” Le and Bao “Bobby” Le agreed to refrain from engaging in deceptive behavior in the future, and to clearly and conspicuously disclose connections between reviewers and the products.

The agency also issued a blog post reminding businesses to avoid fake reviews online. " Favorable buzz can give a product a bounce, but advertisers can take a legal tumble by creating fake review sites, using misleading third-party endorsements or seals, or touting their products on independent sites without disclosing that the recommendation came from someone connected to the company," the FTC writes.

Infinity Trampolines and Olympus Pro Trampolines aren't the only online trampoline companies to draw attention for their marketing tactics. Last year, the self-regulatory group National Advertising Division, a watchdog administered by the Better Business Bureau, told JumpSport to revamp a Web site that appeared to host reviews and other editorial content, but allegedly contained ads for its own products.

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