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December 13, 2012

Tips on Thursday: FTC Disclosure

My mini-challenge during Bloggiesta a few months back was on policies and procedures. I briefly mention FTC disclosure and have been meaning to talk a bit more about it. If you've been blogging for any length of time, you have at least hear of FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you are not in the US, FTC stands for Federal Trade Commission and it governs, well, trade. More specifically, they are tasked with protecting consumers from shady business practices. 

Just because you are not in the US does not mean you can ignore the disclosure statement. If you "work" with US-based companies, your blog is hosted on US-based servers, or you promote to US-based audiences (through social media, etc.), you may also be subject to the disclosure.

English: Washington, D.C. headquarters of the ...
English: Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Federal Trade Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While FTC can fine both the company and the blogger for not disclosing their relationship, they are not out to get bloggers. They've made it as simple as government agency can to comply. I work with a lot of government agencies and I have to say this is probably the most straight forward policy I've ever seen.

To be in compliance all you need to do is add a simple statement at the end of all your endorsement posts that states something along the lines of " Per FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255: I received a free product in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own."

Not all blog posts have to have the disclaimer. If you purchased the product, checked it out of the library, or borrowed it from a friend, then you do not have to add the disclaimer. However, if you do a mix of reviews of purchased products and those received free from a company, I personally think it is a good idea to mention source so there is no question. The point of the disclosure is transparency.

Are you thinking that you purchase all the products you review or perhaps you don't review at all on your blog, but host authors and discuss book news and, therefore, not regulated by the FTC policy? Think again!

Are you an affiliate receiving a small fee in exchange for posting a link? Then you have to disclose that fact. More over, you have to disclose the affiliation when you post an affiliate link to Twitter and Facebook or other social media site. Say, what? Twitter only allows 140 characters! As of right now, it seems that adding a hashtag like #ads, #sponsored, #promo suffices.

A few things to keep in mind about the posting the disclaimer:
  • It must be on each post in which you review/endorse a product - a general disclaimer page will not satisfy the policy
  • It must be visible - it can be part of your footer as long as it easily seen by the reader (if they have to scroll past ads, other posts or widgets/gadgets/plugins then that does not satisfy the guidelines). 
  • It must be legible - you can add it to your "fine print" but do not make it so small it is hard to read.
I should remind you that I'm not a lawyer and policies change often. It is a good idea to keep yourself informed of the latest guidelines and if in doubt, consult a licensed lawyer about your particular situation. The purpose of this post is to be informative and not to give legal or business advice.
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