Archive for October 8th, 2009

Paid reviews by bloggers to come under FTC scrutiny

But after reading multiple articles on the matter, I am none the wiser as to who falls under FTC jurisdiction.

The story, in case you missed it a few days ago, is that the US Federal Trade Commission has decided that paid reviews by bloggers need to be disclosed as paid reviews, which seems fair enough although I don’t know how it can be enforced…especially seeing as the one time I wrote something which people thought was a paid review, it wasn’t, not that anyone could easily prove it one way or the other.

The FTC will require that writers on the Web clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products. The commission also said advertisers featuring testimonials that claim dramatic results cannot hide behind disclaimers that the results aren’t typical.

The FTC said its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final guidelines, which had been expected. The guides are not binding law, but rather interpretations of law that hope to help advertisers comply with regulations. Violating the rules, which take effect Dec. 1, could result in various sanctions including a lawsuit.

Testimonials have to spell out what consumers should expect to experience with their products. Previously, companies had just included disclaimers when results were out of the ordinary — such as a large weight loss — noting that the experience was not typical for all customers.
For bloggers, the FTC stopped short of specifying how they must disclose conflicts of interest. Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC’s advertising practices division, said the disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous,” no matter what form it will take.

For most bloggers, the threat of having to face an expensive lawsuit which they can’t afford to defend would be a big enough threat, and for that reason alone the story grabbed my interest and I wanted to know who this applies to…trouble is, I can’t work it out.

I should be safe as I’m an Australian resident blogging on a server located in Melbourne, owned by an Australian business…but I do have a .com domain name which falls under the jurisdiction of ICANN, who are American. That’s a tenuous link at best. Things become a bit more tricky if I ever decide to move the physical hosting of this site back over to the US, or if I write a paid review whilst in the US.

The point is, there is no clear boundary on the jurisdiction of the FTC, and it seems to me that if a blog has any part of itself in the US, it’s fair game, and the blogger should consider how the FTC’s rules apply to them. Yet another case where the lawyers are the winners.


2 comments October 8th, 2009 at 08:55am

Can you tell the difference?

Can you tell the difference between when I’m working and when I’m not? I tend to spend more time here when I’m not working than when I am working, and I’m sure that the difference is noticeable. The real problem though, is that I try to spend just as much time here when I’m working as when I’m not working, but because I can’t spend as much time here, I don’t get around to writing half the stuff that I want to write.

I doubt that I’ll ever learn to manage it, or bother to try.

Anyway, after work yesterday I was tired and went straight to bed, and now that it’s Thursday, I can’t see any point in publishing a Musician(s) Of The Week award, as there will be one on Sunday.


October 8th, 2009 at 08:36am


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