Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has laid down new rules for bloggers. The rule applies to all who endorses products on their sites/blogs. This is the first time that the Federal Trade Commission has laid down a set of rules for bloggers. The endorsement rules were last updated in 1980. The rule comes into effect from December 1, 2009.
According to this new rule “Consumer-generated media” outlets such as bloggers will have to disclose their relationship with the company’s product they write about. That means that if a blogger writes about or reviews for example a washing machine then the blogger also has to reveal the exact relationship he/she has with the washing machine company. More so if the blogger is getting paid for the review. And if a consumer faces financial loss after buying the product from reading the review then the blogger will have to face a penalty up to $11,000.
The blogger has to from December 1, 2009 give the details of the kind of relationship he/she has with the manufacturer or the advertiser or the service provider of the product. Thus if a blogger has used a particular washing machine and had been told by the manufacturer to write about it then he/she has to say that to his/her audience straight away. If not the blogger may face prosecution and a five figure penalty. Even when the blogger gets a free product or payment or some other facilities from the manufacturer/service provider he/she has to reveal it. This includes celebrities too.
FTC has done this to ensure truthfulness as it is in paid advertisements. A reader must know who is behind the publicity of a particular product/service in the same way as it can be seen on television ads or in print ads. The guidelines are made to ensure reliability and truthfulness. Through these guidelines FTC tries to stop fraudsters and unscrupulous product endorsements. Both the blogger and the advertiser are subject to penalty if found guilty.
What does this new FTC rule means to bloggers?
The guidelines very clearly define endorsements and testimonials. They consider both the same thing and clearly states that an endorsement or a testimonial of any sort must reflect honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experience of the endorser. According to the guideline the endorser cannot convey any message that is deceptive. This way bloggers or endorsers will be treated the same way as an ad agency. There is no longer a safety spot for endorsers. They have to make every information public. Also the advertisers are also liable to inform the audiences about their endorsers in the same way as the endorsers are liable to give details of their sponsors.
Thus this means:
- Any employer of a company who is blogging on the company’s website or somewhere else and is writing good or bad things about the company or its products should also say somewhere that he/she is an employer of that particular company.
- Any company/employer running a blog/site on their latest products should say that.
- If you want to share a personal experience you can do that though. But do mention that this is personal and not sponsored.
Lastly, there is no way you can violate these laws. If your thing is on the internet it is going to be monitored by FTC. So it’s better to follow their guidelines if you don’t want to pay $11,000.
What do you think? Is this rule by the FTC right or wrong?