I’ve had quite a number of members and subscribers ask me about what we should do as bloggers and information marketers regarding the new FTC revised guidelines on testimonials and endorsements in the USA. There’s quite a lot of information circulating about what to do, but it’s difficult to know who to trust. Even the lawyers are not certain of how the rules will be enforced as this is all very new.
My friend Jason from JohnCow.com has dived into the subject and offers the following advice for us based on his research into the FTC guidelines. Just remember none of us are lawyers, so if you want to be absolutely certain about any legal matters, check with the people who specialize in this stuff.
Now, here’s what Jason has to say…
With the new guidelines from the FTC that came into effect on December 1st, a lot of people are wondering if their site is compliant. In my previous post on the new FTC regulations on JohnCow.com, I gave some general examples and definitions but now I want to help you take action. I’ve put together some questions that you need to ask yourself in regards to all your websites (it does not matter if it is a personal blog or commercial storefront).
While I recommend that you go check out the actual information from the FTC itself at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm (warning, it’s a boring read but it’s always good to go straight to the source), the following checklist should help considerably…. but remember we are not lawyers and are not offering legal advice, this is simply a guideline to consider.
- Are all endorsements, whether by you or someone else for one of your products, fully disclosed?
- Are all of your testimonials indicative of the average customer experience, not the extraordinary?
- If you have any before/after pictures, have you disclosed any other factors which influenced the result?
- Have you fully disclosed any affiliate products on your site that you will receive any compensation from?
- Are all of your photos beside testimonials pictures of the actual person who wrote the testimonial?
- Are any affiliate pages you have written from an honest point of view and have you actually tried the product if you claim to have?
- Have you disclosed any relationship you have to other sites that you link to from your site, whether you own them or have any other kind of relationship to it?
- Have you disclosed any compensation you received for either mentioning or reviewing a product, even if all you got was a free sample?
Answer ‘no’ to any of those questions? Then you have some changes that you need to make in order to be fully compliant with the new FTC guidelines.
If you answered ‘yes’ to all the questions, then you’re in pretty good shape.
Remember that overall, the intent of the new guidelines is to promote transparency and honesty in advertising, specifically when it comes to testimonials and endorsements. If you’ve already been operating from an honest position, then these new FTC guidelines shouldn’t affect you too much.
The biggest change for the non-spamming, non-sleazy internet marketer is the new guideline that calls for testimonials to be indicative of the average experience, not the extraordinary ones. This means that even if you’ve been using real testimonials, if it’s the best in the bunch, you may need to change it, and simply putting a “results not typical” disclaimer isn’t good enough anymore.
So don’t freak out about the new FTC Guidelines. Be aware of them (forewarned is forearmed) and simply continue to run your business in an honest way. Remember that these new guidelines are not meant to punish all online marketers, but rather to stop a small select few that have been blatantly abusing the system.
Jason Katzenback is the voice of JohnCow.com and also helps people build massive traffic to their websites at Web2Mayhem.com.
P.S. Yaro here – If you want even more information on this subject, check out this teleconference recording I was referred to that you may have seen me tweet about recently – Easy FTC Compliance Seminar – What You Need to Do, Step-by-Step by Robert Skob.