NAD Recommends Euro-Pro Discontinue Claims that Shark Vacuum Receives ‘More 5-star Online Reviews’ Than Any Other Brand

Editor’s Note: This press release was revised 9.3.15 to reflect the advertiser’s decision to withdraw its appeal to the National Advertising Review Board. The
revised Advertiser’s Statement has been included below.

New York, NY – July 21, 2015 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Euro-Pro Operating, LLC, discontinue claims that the company’s Shark brand vacuum cleaners receive “more 5-star online reviews than any other vacuum brand.”

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Following a challenge by Dyson, Inc., a maker of competing vacuum cleaners, NAD reviewed advertising claims made for the Euro-Pro Shark Lift-Away NV650 Vacuum Cleaner in an infomercial, in online videos and social media, on product packaging and on the product website.

Claims at issue included:

• Shark receives “more 5-star online reviews than any other vacuum brand*” (*“based on an aggregate of verified online reviews at major retailers of leading uprights per NPD over $149, 6/2014.)
• The Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away cleans hard floors better than Dyson’s top-of-the-line DC65 vacuum, and the DC65 leaves significant amounts of dust and debris on hard floors.
• The Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away has more suction power than the Dyson DC65, and Dyson is falsely telling consumers otherwise.
• The Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away offers more reach and versatility than the DC65, and can clean in places that Dyson vacuums cannot reach.

NAD determined that the claim “More 5-Star online ratings than any other vacuum brand” was a broad claim, reasonably conveying the message that Shark conducted an extensive, if not exhaustive, compilation of reliable and representative “5-Star” online-wide reviews in support of its claim—a message that was not supported by the evidence.

NAD noted in its decision that while the advertiser asserted that it gathered 5-star review data from online retailer websites comprising the top 85% of online retailers, it based its claim on a much smaller subset of reviews and its analysis accounts for far less of the market. For example, Euro-Pro did not include in its calculations reviews posted at Target, Best-Buy or Costco websites because those sites did not indicate whether the reviews posted can be verified as coming from an actual purchaser of the product. Euro-Pro also did not include online reviews from any manufacturer websites.

As NAD noted in its decision, Euro-Pro acknowledged that “[o]f course there is no doubt that some reviews posted on the web that are not given ‘verified’ status are truthful and reliable. The problem is that there is not a clear way for Euro-Pro to parse them out.” Consequently, Euro-Pro used “the verified reviews as the reasonable subset it was absolutely comfortable concluding were reliable and used this set as the basis for its analysis and substantiation.”

NAD noted that while it appreciated the advertiser’s desire to ensure reliability in its tabulations, it could not ignore that the excluded major online retailers account for a noteworthy number of online upright vacuum sales and customer reviews. NAD concluded that by discounting or disregarding these manufacturer/retail sites’ reviews altogether, Euro-Pro materially undermined the reliability of the ultimate bottom line of its tabulations.

While NAD is open to advertisers using new technology and information to support their claims, the standards of truthfulness, reliability, and representativeness to which an advertiser’s substantiation is held remain the same. NAD noted that advertisers cannot base claims on tenuous evidence (cross-platform or otherwise) simply because sufficiently reliable evidence is too difficult to collect.
In a prior case between the parties, both the NAD and NARB noted that inconsistencies in the availability and retention of reviews for different vacuums across websites had the potential for skewing the underlying data. Such inconsistencies and uncertainties are particularly problematic when the advertiser is attempting to combine reviews from various sources to support a single, broad superiority claim.

In addition to NAD’s concerns as to Euro-Pro’s aggregation of online reviews, NAD questioned the reasonableness of the advertiser’s selection of a $149.99 price point (or above) for its calculation. NAD determined that this only served to further unnecessarily narrow the limited data upon which Euro-Pro bases its claim.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD concluded that the advertiser’s evidence was not sufficiently reliable or representative to support its broad “More 5-Star online ratings than any other vacuum brand” claim and recommended the advertiser discontinue the claim. Euro-Pro has said it will appeal NAD’s finding to the NARB.

NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue its superior bare/hard floor cleaning claim including, but not limited to, “[t]hat means more suction for bare floor cleaning” as it appeared in a comparative context. Euro-Pro said it would take that finding into account in future advertising.

Finally, NAD concluded that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for the message that the Shark Powered Lift-Away’s motorized brush reaches places that the “Dyson ball” cannot.

The company, in its revised  advertiser’s statement, said the following: “SharkNinja (formerly d/b/a Euro-Pro) has made an independent business decision to highlight different aspects of its comparative superiority to Dyson uprights and as such has decided to withdraw its appeal of the NAD’s decision concerning use of online reviews in advertising. While SharkNinja continues to believe the decision unduly hampers use of online reviews to provide consumers with valuable information, it has determined it is not a good use of its or NARB’s resources to pursue the case as a matter of principle. SharkNinja will consider all respects of the NAD decision and recommendations in its future advertising”