New FTC Rules for Bloggers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued final rules for bloggers who endorse products or services. Starting December 1, any compensation (including gifts, free samples, or anything else received for free) must be disclosed. Fines up to $11,000 can be imposed for nondisclosure.

The new rules apply not only to commercial blogs, but also to postings on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites. People who post here are referred to as “word of mouth” marketers.

The new rules, which are a first with respect to paid endorsements in almost three decades, go beyond blogging. They also apply to testimonials. Previous rules had allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical.” This “safe harbor” no longer applies. Also, businesses that run ads must disclose payment of expenses to research organization that conducts a study touting those ads.

Best practice: A blogger should disclose any connection to the product or service discussed in his or her blog.

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