NAD Lowers TaxSlayer’s Ratings Claim

Advertising Law

The National Advertising Division (NAD) slayed “#1 Rated” claims made by TaxSlayer LLC, recommending, in its ruling on a challenge brought by competitor Intuit Inc., that the advertiser discontinue the unsupported message.

In a series of commercials, online videos and online advertising, TaxSlayer touted its tax preparation software with claims such as “Slay your taxes. So you can enjoy your refund. Maximize your refund with TaxSlayer. #1 rated on Trustpilot” and “#1 Rated in the Tax Prep Software Category on Trustpilot. Start free today!”

A disclosure added that the claim was “[b]ased on more than 2300 verified customer reviews on Trustpilot. TaxSlayer has 1500+ 5-star reviews, and 84% of TaxSlayer customers rate TaxSlayer Great or Excellent on Trustpilot. Learn more at”

After reviewing the advertising message, the self-regulatory body noted that for “#1 Rated” claims, advertisers should compare themselves with at least 85 percent of the relevant marketplace, and the customers surveyed should represent the broad base of customers who have used the product.

TaxSlayer failed to satisfy these requirements, the NAD found. First, the population of online reviews that created the basis for Trustpilot’s score did not represent the general opinion of tax prep software consumers across the United States.

Trustpilot collects reviews from consumers that use programs from companies with which Trustpilot has a business relationship at a significantly higher rate than from those with which it does not, the NAD said, as evidenced by the fact that the market leader in the tax prep software category—which does not have a relationship with Trustpilot—had received only 15 reviews on the site, as compared with the over 2,500 reviews for TaxSlayer.

Next, the NAD rejected TaxSlayer’s argument that a consumer could simply visit the Trustpilot website to clarify any confusion about its ranking. “Consumers should not have to search to learn more about the limitations on an advertising claim,” the NAD wrote. “Here, while the claim informs consumers that it is limited to companies in the tax prep software category on a certain website, it does not inform them that this ranking is not based on a representative sample of tax prep software consumers.”

Other issues further undermined the reliability of the Trustpilot data, the self-regulatory body added. The site lacked mechanisms to verify that reviewers were legitimate consumers of the companies they reviewed, it failed to implement limitations to prevent consumers from submitting multiple reviews and it lacked evidence that the reviews represented 85 percent of the market of tax software providers.

The NAD also noted that since Trustpilot’s ratings were based not simply on customer reviews, but on the site’s proprietary “Trustscore,” it remained unclear how much weight was given to the factors used for the calculation (such as the number of star reviews and the relative age of each review).

“Consequently, NAD determined that the consumer review data underlying the Trustpilot rankings was insufficient to support the advertiser’s ‘#1 rated’ claims.” The self-regulatory body recommended that TaxSlayer discontinue the challenged claims.

To read the NAD’s press release about the case, click here.

Why it matters: Advertisers should use caution when relying upon consumer reviews and rankings for ad claims—in addition to the NAD, the New York Attorney General’s Office has taken action against a website that inaccurately promoted its reviews as “unbiased”. In its advertiser’s statement, TaxSlayer agreed to comply with the NAD’s recommendations, but added that it “is initially discouraged by a general reluctance to accept new standards for consumer review presentation, especially in situations where consumers may experience only one product at a time and product comparison is not feasible.”



pursuant to New York DR 2-101(f)

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