When I heard about the new FTC decision regarding blog disclosure, I got in contact with my friend Nicole Knox. Nicole guided me through the LLC process for Momtrends and is a terrific contracts lawyer. As a favor, Nicole put together this review of the new rules:
Bloggers Beware! On October 5, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that bloggers are going to be held to the same standards as advertisers or endorsers with regard to product or service reviews. Bloggers who receive free products or money from companies in exchange for the reviewing the companies'?? products or services are now required to disclose the '??material connections'? the bloggers share with the sellers of the products or services. In other words, if you are a blogger and receive money or free products from a company so that you will review the company'??s products or services in your blog, you will now need to provide the readers of your blog with some sort of '??written disclaimer'? detailing your relationship with the seller of the product or service '?? this disclaimer may simply be a disclosure of the fact that the company gave you a free product for you to review the product in your blog.
This announcement comes as the FTC is approving final revisions to the '??Guide Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising'?. It is important to note, that the Guide is not binding law but rather, as described on the FTC website, '??the Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act." So, there are no fines or penalties for violating the Guide itself, however repeat offenders could find themselves in court if the FTC decides to enforce the FTC Act against the offenders.
The bottom line is that all bloggers should be aware of this announcement from the FTC and make sure that they make a full disclosure as to any '??freebies'? (and cash) they receive for writing about a product or service. And, all of you consumers out there should expect a little bit more from the blogs you visit and should be on the lookout for these '??material connections'? disclosures so you can evaluate reviews and claims on blogs with more discernment.
Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
Thanks Nicole! Here at Momtrends, I've added a disclosure link to my home page and I will continue to have a NO PAID EDITORIAL policy. When I get free products to test, I will let you know. Feel free to shoot questions my way and I will see if Nicole (the lawyer) and I (the editor) can help. And if there are any bloggers who want information on trademarks, LLCs and contracts I'm happy to pass along Nicole Knox's information.