The Federal Trade Commission in the United States has released new guidelines aimed at those who market online. The new rules go into effect on December 1, 2009 and carry fines for those who don’t follow them.
The basic idea behind the rules is to stop deceptive advertising and they are largely targeted toward bloggers or affiliate marketers.
For example, up until now if you did a blog post reviewing a product and provided an affiliate link to that product, you didn’t have to state your relationship with the product vendor (i.e. you didn’t have to say you were an affiliate).
But with the new rules, because you are being compensated for your review of the product, you are considered a paid endorser and you have to let people know this upfront…you have to disclose your relationship. Not doing so is considered deceptive by the FTC and subjects you to fines.
The new guidelines also contain changes that affect marketers in general, depending upon their type of business. For example, if a doctor endorses a product and is receiving a percentage of the gross sales for that product (a common practice with expert endorsements), that doctor’s relationship with the company promoting the product must also be disclosed. In other words, people have to know that doctor is getting a cut from every bottle of goop that sells.
There’s actually much more to the guidelines and the FTC has published a rather lengthy explanation of what’s allowable and what isn’t under the new rules. If you do any type of marketing online, it’s definitely something you should review (perhaps even with an attorney).