October 5, 2009
FTC Issues New Endorsement Rules: Bloggers Are Covered As Well
The FTC issued its final guides governing endorsements and testimonials. The rules change how advertisers can describe product results in their ads. The old rules allowed an advertiser to promote unusual results as long as there was a (usually tiny) disclaimer that these were not typical results. That conduct is now gone. Advertisers will have to show what results consumers can actually expect. The new rules also affect bloggers:
The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.
As for celebrity endorsers, they as well as the advertiser may be liable for for false or unsubstantiated claims under the new rules. This even affects claims made through social media. The connection between a celebrity and their status as a flack has to be disclosed no matter the medium. Would these rules be considered unconstitutional because they force advertisers and their paid endorsers to be truthful up front? Not to worry:
The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.
The FTC press release with links to the revised rules is here. [MG]
How is this really going to be enforced if most blogging is done anonymously anyway? Oops I used my actual name...
Posted by: Craig | Jun 7, 2010 5:27:49 PM