Well hey, would you look at that? The Federal Trade Commission is finally coming around to cracking down on online scams. They’ve issued a new set of rules for advertising that will impact the claims advertisers are allowed to make.
The FTC’s New Rules on Advertising
- Consumer testimonials would have to be substantiated and ads would have to include generally expected results. Endorsers, not just advertisers, could be held liable for deceptive claims. “You’d have to say not only is it extreme, but how extreme is it,” the FTC’s Richard Cleland said.
- Celebrities who talk up a product in an interview must disclose if they are getting paid for the promotion. Celebrities who endorse products would have to disclose if they have an ownership interest.
- Expert endorsers, like doctors, must have experience in the product area they are endorsing. If they don’t, the limits of their expertise must be stated. For instance, an ophthalmologist identified only as a doctor could not be portrayed as an expert physician endorsing a hearing aid.
- Bloggers who get free products and then endorse them on their blogs would have to make it clear they got the products free.
I’m most excited about the first bullet point. The words “ads must include generally expected results” are like music to my ears. “Endorsers could be held liable for deceptive claims,” is poetry, plain and simple.
Now, do I really think that we’ll see a change in Internet advertising. No, at least not for a while. Only after the FTC starts dishing out punishments for violating these rules will we see a change. It took them quite a few years to lay the basework for stopping online scams; who knows how long it will take them to actually pursue those using deceptive marketing.