New FTC Changes Aren’t That Bad for Bloggers

First off, I need to throw this out there: this is not legal advice in the least bit, rather my thoughts on the changes. If you want to get advice on how to handle these changes, please speak to a lawyer.

Ok, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, basically what I want you to take away from this post is from what I can gather, the new FTC changes regarding “Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” really aren’t all that bad, and really aren’t going to change the way most of us conduct our day-to-day business and activities.

That being said, please don’t take these changes lightly.  Beginning December 1, 2009, if you are found to not be in compliance, you may be fined up to $11,000 per instance.  Obviously, that’s a pretty steep fine!

After reading the FTC press release as well as the text of the new regulations, here are the two biggest things to come about due to the new regulations:

1) If you’re selling a product as an affiliate you need to disclose your relationship with the manufacturer/creator/seller/distributor/etc. whether you’re getting paid to write the review or are just trying to earn commissions from affiliate sales.  Basically if any sort of compensation is going to change hands, it needs to be disclosed.

Furthermore, let’s say you were given a product for free and simply asked to write a review on that product, you need to disclose that you were given the product for free in exchange for writing the review because a receiving a free product is the same thing as receiving compensation.

2. The way people can use testimonials on their sites has changed forever. The days of highlighting out of the norm testimonials – “I lost 800 pounds following this program,” or, “I made $25,000 overnight using these methods” – and then putting some small disclaimer saying “results not typical and your results may vary” are done.

Now, if you use these testimonials, not only do you have to say that they’re not typical, but you have to state what the typical results are.  If you can’t find out this information, you’d better not use testimonials; if you do have this information, it better be extremely well documented and accurate.

Considering the possibility of pretty hefty fines in both instances, it is certainly in your best interest to comply.

I called over to the FTC this morning to get some more information regarding these changes and how they will affect people like you and me.  In speaking with their representative, I found out three important pieces of information:

  1. Over the next month or two, the FTC will begin posting several FAQ’s to help the “average Joe” better understand the new regulations.
  2. According to the representative, sites posted prior to the December 1, 2009 effective date will not have to be altered to comply with the regulations.  So if you have hundreds of affiliate reviews on your site, you will not need to go back and update them with a disclaimer.
  3. Again, according to the representative, if you write a blog post reviewing a product and insert your affiliate link, you should end the article with a simple disclaimer saying along the lines of “Note: In order to comply with FTC regulations, if you purchase (insert item name here) by clicking any of the links on this site, I will receive a commission from the product’s creator/manufacturer.”

Again, all of the information I have provided here is not legal advice, and for further clarification and legal advice, please contact an actual lawyer.

For more information regarding these changes, I suggest you check out the following links:

What do you think of these changes?  Please leave comments below and let me know what you think and how you plan on complying.