Commercial and product endorsements are often just paid advertising – National Consumer News | Educate and Help American Consumers | Disclose fraudulent advertising | Provide news on the lowest prescription prices

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Just because a business claiming to work on behalf of consumers makes an endorsement, doesn’t mean you can pass that recommendation on to the bank.

There are a multitude of companies that make their money by recommending companies that pay them for their endorsements. Usually, these companies disclose that they have some sort of partnership that they approve of, but not all of them show it prominently.

Companies then do an about-face and post the “endorsement” on their websites or products as proof of their good reputation.

This growing trend is forcing consumers to read beyond the title of an approval and perform extensive Google checks before returning their credit cards.

Even Consumer Reports has a program that allows companies to post their approval for a fee. But, unlike most sponsorship companies, they thoroughly test the products, pay for the products, and do not accept advertising.

Consumer Affairs encourages paying customers, including those with poor consumption records

Other well-known companies like Consumer Affairs and MarketWatch are paid to support businesses. They claim that they scrutinize companies that are allowed to display their logos, that they buy a lot of them, that they have thousands of valid complaints on the internet, that they are being sued for false advertising or that they receive warnings from the government. Better Business Bureau.

Consumeraffairs.com is one of the main players. It regularly sends emails to alert consumers to legitimate consumer issues. These emails contain recommendations to buy services and products from hundreds of businesses that pay for endorsements.

Sponsorship activity is not limited to companies providing services. They also include consumer products.

For example, Cascade on its box indicates that it is the # 1 recommended brand in North America. But if you look at the fine print on the back, you’ll see that the approval is based simply on Cascade having unspecified marketing agreements with dishwasher manufacturers.

Cascading deceptive endorsement request. Photo – Courtesy of Lon Seidman
Cascading Disclosure of a Misleading Endorsement Claim.  Photo courtesy: on Seidman http://lon.tv/facebook
Cascading disclosure of a misleading endorsement claim in small print on the back of the container. Photo – Courtesy of Lon Seidman

Paid mentions can also be found in thousands of news and review sites, many of which are paid by Amazon. The advertisement can come from the name of a product linked directly to that product on Amazon or from a generic product name also linked to an Amazon product. The owners of these sites get paid every time someone clicks on a dynamic link.

Better Business Bureau not totally trustworthy

BBB earns its money by selling accreditations

The Better Business Bureau gets its money from customers who pay a lot of money to be “accredited,” which allows them to display the BBB accredited seal on their websites.

It doesn’t matter that the company may have thousands of valid complaints posted on BBB. They just have to show that they are making an effort to solve the problems.

Because of these factors, it is much more difficult for consumers to use the BBB to make sound decisions about which companies offer good value for money and good service.

Despite its shortcomings, my first check of a business is usually the BBB site. Once I know a business has paid for accreditation, I discount their rating. In many cases, the BBB rates ongoing government actions against companies, which most other review sites do not.

What is usually important is the number of complaints against a business, what the complaints allege, and how the business responds to the complaints.

The BBB is much more valuable when it comes to unaccredited companies because its letter rating is more reliable.

I can’t even trust MarketWatch on its reviews

Even the very respectable Dow Jones Company’s MarketWatch site has taken to reviewing companies. He reveals he’s paid to act and claims his reviews have nothing to do with how his newsroom works. While some of the companies he promotes have high BBB ratings, others have lower ratings and many complaints.

On its site, MarketWatch recommends five auto warranty companies that are “most trusted”.

“We’ve sifted through the industry for you, comparing dozens of vendors to find the five most trusted extended car warranty companies available, all of which also ranked at the top of our best extended car warranty review. “

One of the five is CarShield, which the BBB doesn’t consider to be one of the most reputable. He is not accredited.

The BBB included the following disclaimer regarding the company as well as an F rating and over 3,000 complaints:

BBB advises consumers to exercise caution if considering doing business with CarShield, a vehicle maintenance contract company. BBB has received a series of consumer complaints alleging that the company:

  • Used deceptive sales and advertising practices, including television commercials stating that consumers will not be responsible for costly repairs and can take their vehicle to any repair center that consumers have found wrong
  • Did not cover repairs
  • Did not adequately explain the mileage and time component before coverage began
  • Did not cancel their policies and did not provide a refund
  • Delayed claims taking and processing leaving customers without their vehicles
  • Poor customer service

MarketWatch’s top pick is Endurance, which received its highest score of 9.5.

Again, BBB was not thrilled with this business, which was noted by its Illinois chapter – where the company’s headquarters are located. Endurance is not an accredited company, has over 1,000 complaints and is rated C +.

Since May 2019, the BBB serving Chicago and northern Illinois has repeatedly requested Endurance Warranty Services, LLC to modify or discontinue their promotional mailings distributed nationwide. Business direct mail contained aggressive and confusing language, which often intimidated consumers. In addition, the mailers were distributed in envelopes resembling federal tax documents.

To be fair, three other companies recommended by MarketWatch have received high marks from the BBB: CarChex, Protect My Car and autopom!

Consumer Affairs Examples of Misleading Endorsements

Consumer Affairs claims to be a consumer website. Although it regularly provides valid and important information to consumers about its email deliveries, its core business is selling recommendations to its hundreds of partners.

Some of the mentions are aimed at companies that have a reputation for treating consumers well, they are also directed at companies with a bad consumer history and even face class action lawsuits for false advertising. Its site clearly indicates who its “authorized partners” are.

For example, Consumer Affairs promotes Noom, a diet company that is a defendant in a $ 100 million lawsuit accusing it of several counts of false advertising. Noom is an authorized partner.

On its website, Consumer Affairs makes no mention of Noom’s lawsuit, or the specific allegations the company is accused of.

On another site, where Consumer Affairs ranks diet plans, the only negative comment he has is that Noom doesn’t have 24-hour dietitians.

However, the lawsuit, which was approved by a federal judge as a class action suit, alleges that clients have NO access to dietitians, but instead receive automated messages.

Consumer Affairs’ first choice for home warranty companies is American Home Shield, which it also refers to as an “authorized partner”.

“American Home Shield is our top choice for home warranty provider because it has great reviews,” he says.

The BBB site has less than stellar reviews.

Out of 8,300 reviews, AHS has received an average rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars. It has received over 21,000 complaints against it in the past three years, but because it pays to be accredited, the BBB has it. awarded a B grade.

For auto warranties, it includes another partner, CarShield, and claims it has over 8,000 reviews with an average of over four out of five stars.

BBB, as noted above, warns consumers about the company and gives it an F rating.

US News & World Reports is also playing the game

US News sells its badges

While it’s not entirely clear how US News & World Reports decides who can buy their badge to show company approval, on its website for “Marketing Opportunities” it says “Buy Now.” an American press badge ”.

It also discloses on another site that the company “can make a commission when users of our site click on a link to buy or get more information about a product,” he strongly recommends.

“However, we provide these tools for the convenience of our users and they do not affect our editorial independence.”

Its sale of approval badges and the promotion of businesses that are frequently the subject of consumer complaints raise questions about the depth with which it investigates colleges and hospitals for its famous ratings.

For example, US News allows its badge to be used by Choice Home Warranty, one of the largest home appliance warranty companies. On his website, he says he has determined that Choice is tied for third place in its ranking.

In a recent email solicitation I received from Choice Home Warranty, it stated that the company has been “recognized as the best residential warranty two years in a row.” Next to this claim are two badges from US News 360 magazines stating that it is not only the best claims service, but also the best home warranty company.

A check on the Better Business Bureau website shows that Choice Home Warranty paid to be an accredited business. It has a high B rating despite over 8,000 complaints in the past three years. Out of 1,336 customer reviews, the average rating was one in five stars.

More importantly, the BBB notes that in October 2019, the Arizona Attorney General filed a fraud complaint claiming that:

The company “has raised millions from Arizona consumers, but used contract exclusions, payment caps and bad faith denials to avoid paying for repairs.”

The AG was looking for up to $ 10,000 for each violation of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. This trial is ongoing.

Choice, on its website, says it has received four out of five stars from customers and displays approval badges from Inc. 5000 and BestCompany.com.

Its website prominently displays Inc’s approval badges. 5000 and BestCompany.com.

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