Today The Federal trade Commission announced some revisions to its “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” that pertain to us bloggers. According to the Commission, us bloggers are now required to reveal “connections that consumers would not expect,” aka free products or money in exchange for a review.
The wording of the Commission’s announcement is a bit loose. To get a better idea of how these regulations work, read on.
The revisions don’t explicitly say what the term “endorser” encompasses. Am I an endorser if I get a free game from a company, but end up giving it a 4 out of 10? The announcement doesn’t specify. The announcement also doesn’t specify how writers are suppose to disclose “material connections” to companies.
The revisions do specifically state that these new guidelines do not apply to “traditional media” such as “a newspaper, magazine, or television or radio station with independent editorial responsibility.” According to the FTC, the issue with bloggers lies primarily with “consumer-generated” content.
The FTC stated: “The post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.”
The new revisions go into effect December 1. Those who violate the new regulations will face up to $11,000 in fines per instance.
If these regulations seem a bit vague, the FTC provided an example in hopes of adding clarity.
“Example 7: A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. Because his review is disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. The manufacturer should advise him at the time it provides the gaming system that this connection should be disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for compliance.”