Many bloggers have already taken steps to properly blog endorsement material and limit the liability. However, Monday the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) revised their rules for the use of both testimonials and endorsements in advertising. This new set of rules comes complete with the specific inclusion for bloggers. Believe it or not, this is the first time the FTC has made a change to these rules in 29 years (1980).
Think this never happens?
Consider this, you have a fairly successful consumer electronics blog. You started this blog to post reviews and generate a community of “buyer beware” information for unsuspecting consumers… Great idea right?
Actually, this type of blogging platform, while it can be wildly successful is a legal nightmare. Company’s can sue you for yours as well as your commenter’s negative remarks about their products… Understand many cases exist where this type of suit not only made it to court, but many bloggers lost. Big money.
So now consider this, gadget company ABC sends you their new Whirlagig, for free… To test and provide your experienced review… You know, so they can make your product better. You accept this gadget, play around with it for a few weeks and then blog about how much you liked it. Boom, if you have not disclosed that you received free products from ABC company, the FTC can fine you 11K.
You see under the new language, its not just cash and payments you must disclose… But material gifts as well. Straight up…. If its paid for in any way you MUST disclose this to your readers. Additionally, if you have great results for example from a product…. You must disclose these as your own personal and probably atypical results. No longer can you publish inflated testimonials or reviews without having clearly disclosed them as noted by the new FTC guidelines.
Simply stating “results not typical” on an ad is not good enough. Advertisers now need to clearly explain the advertised product or service is not what consumers should typically expect.
If companies advertise results of research they sponsored, they must disclose this information to consumers.
Celebrity endorsements also need to clearly state they are providing endorsements. The revision on this part of the Guides is that both the celebrity endorser and the advertiser can be liable for false claims. They also must explain their relationships anywhere the endorsement is taking place.
Let’s take for example my post “5 Things to Make Zen Cart Faster“. In this post I gave some information regarding what I consider to be excellent modules to improve the performance of your Zen Cart. Now, understand that we install these modules regularly… Each one probably more than 50 times. So I certainly think my opinion has some merit here, right?
Here is where it gets sticky…. One of the modules that we use regularly to cache pages in very large stores, with great success mind you, is NOT a free module… But rather a commercial module. This could be…. If I do not specifically say otherwise, construed as a paid endorsement. However, you can see at the bottom of the post the following disclaimer:
We are not affiliated with MagneticOne in any way and make this recommendation based on our experience with the module and its ability to cache and speed your Zen Cart up. We have received no compensation for this recommendation from MagneticOne or anyone else to say this… It is of our own free will and choice.
Think this is adequate? Well we certainly hope so, as its a damn sad day when you cannot tell others of products and services you have used and liked!