NARB Finds Aggregated Reviews Across Retail Sites Do Not Serve to Support Claim that Euro-Pro’s Shark Vacuums Are ‘America’s Most Recommended’

New York, NY – Oct. 14, 2014   – A five-member panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that Euro-Pro Operating LLC, discontinue challenged claims for the company’s Shark brand vacuum cleaners.

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

The claims at issue, which appeared in television and website advertising, were challenged by Dyson, Inc., a competing manufacturer of vacuum cleaners.

The challenged claims included:

  • “America’s Most Recommended Vacuum”
  • “America’s Most Recommended Vacuum Brand.*
    • *Based on percentage of consumer recommendations for upright vacuums on major national retailer websites through August 2013, U.S. Only.”

In the underlying case, the National Advertising Division (NAD) found that the challenged claims reasonably conveyed a message that Shark is the most recommended vacuum brand among American vacuum cleaner consumers. NAD further found that the data relied on by Euro-Pro in support of this claim was not sufficiently reliable and did not represent American vacuum cleaner consumers. The NAD recommended that the claims be discontinued. Euro-Pro appealed NAD’s recommendation.

Euro-Pro argued that the challenged advertising was substantiated by its analysis of consumer recommendations on national retailer websites. In performing this analysis, Euro-Pro identified the upright vacuums accounting for more than 85% of U.S. sales and looked at reviews for those vacuums on the following retailer websites: Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Costco, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Lowes, Sam’s Club, Sears/Kmart, Target, and Walmart.  Reviews on all but three of these websites (Amazon, Costco and Target) included a yes/no response to a question asking whether the reviewer recommended the vacuum being reviewed.  In analyzing recommendations across the eight websites that asked for recommendations, Euro-Pro determined that Shark vacuum cleaners were recommended by 94.2% of reviewers, which was the highest percentage for any manufacturer. Dyson vacuum cleaners were recommended by 89.9% of reviewers, which was the second highest percentage.

A key question for the panel was whether Euro-Pro’s analysis was based on data from a representative sample of American vacuum cleaner consumers.

The evidence showed that the vast majority of vacuum cleaners – at least 84% – are purchased in brick and mortar stores. Further, more than 42% of the total upright vacuum reviews analyzed by Euro-Pro were posted on Amazon.com, which accounted for only 2% of upright vacuum sales in the United States.

Walmart accounted for almost half of the upright vacuum sales in the United States, but the Walmart website had less than 20% of the reviews that were part of Euro-Pro’s analysis.

Overall, the record showed that online reviews predominantly reflect the views of the minority of U.S. consumers who purchase vacuums online.

Euro-Pro’s analysis thus started out with a universe that primarily represented the small minority of U.S. vacuum consumers who purchase vacuums online. This number was reduced even further because three significant online retailers representing nearly 50% of all reviews considered by Euro-Pro – Amazon, Target and Costco – were not included in Euro-Pro’s analysis of consumer recommendations because those websites do not ask consumers whether they recommend the product being reviewed.

Overall, the panel determined that Euro-Pro did not meet its burden to show that the data it analyzed in support of its “America’s Most Recommended” claim came from a representative sample of American vacuum cleaner consumers or American upright vacuum cleaner consumers.

The panel noted that it appreciated the usefulness of online consumer reviews and recognized that consumers increasingly rely on such reviews. Further, the panel said, its decision is not intended to preclude the possibility that web-based consumer review data could be aggregated across websites in support of advertising claims.

In this case, however, the panel found that the advertiser’s evidence did not support its broad “America’s Most Recommended” claims made and recommended that Euro-Pro promptly discontinue the claims.

Euro-Pro, in its advertiser’s statement, said that while the company “does not agree with the NARB’s conclusion that the challenged claim (as well as the modified claim) should be interpreted to mean ‘most recommended’ by all American vacuum cleaner consumers rather than simply by online recommenders, Euro-Pro will be discontinuing the claim.”