US bloggers required to disclose Endorsements

Tim Wintle - October 13th, 2009

The US FTC recently updated their guidelines on endorsements and testimonials, bringing in specific examples regarding bloggers who are endorsing a product as part of an advertising campaign.

The guidelines were last updated in 1980, and it appears they wanted to clarify the implications to online advertising.

An example from the updated guidelines:

The advertiser requests that a blogger try a new body lotion and write a review of the product on her blog. Although the advertiser does not make any specific claims about the lotion’s ability to cure skin conditions and the blogger does not ask the advertiser whether there is substantiation for the claim, in her review the blogger writes
that the lotion cures eczema and recommends the product to her blog readers who suffer from this condition. The advertiser is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made through the blogger’s endorsement. The blogger also is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made in the course of her endorsement. The blogger is also liable if she fails to disclose clearly and conspicuously that she is being paid for her services.

In order to limit its potential liability, the advertiser should ensure that the advertising service provides guidance and training to its bloggers concerning the need to ensure that statements they make are truthful and substantiated. The advertiser should also monitor bloggers who are being paid to promote its products and take steps necessary to halt the continued publication of deceptive representations when they are discovered.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

Regulators say they haven’t seen a wave of abuses involving endorsements by bloggers but wanted to establish clear rules to prevent any problems in the future.

The FTC announcement can be read here, where you can also find the full FTC guidelines.