Michigan bloggers and affiliate marketers should take note: the Federal Trade Commission has issued new guidelines under 16 CFR Part 255 concerning the use of advertising, testimonials, and endorsements in blog posts. Starting December 1, 2009, bloggers and affiliate marketers who endorse a product must disclose whether they have a material connection to the product’s provider if that connection would affect the public’s assessment of the weight or credibility of the endorsement. Bloggers and affiliate marketers who receive payment for their endorsement of a product, or any other kind of remunerationâ€”free or otherwiseâ€” can be held liable for a violation of these regulations. Failure to comply with the new rules could cost Michigan bloggers and affiliate marketers up to $11,000 per post.
Additional guidelines have also been enacted concerning celebrity endorsements. Prior to the new guidelines, celebrity endorsers could not be held liable for false or misleading advertising that was associated with a product that they endorsed. That has changed, however, as celebrities must now disclose their connection with an advertiser and can be held liable, along with the advertiser, for any false or misleading advertising. Further, celebrities must also disclose their relationship with an advertiser even if they mention the advertiser’s products in non-traditional advertising channels, such as on talk shows or radio shows.
The rules governing consumer testimonials have also changed. Advertisers can no longer hide behind a disclaimer that states that â€œResults are not typical.â€ If an advertiser uses a consumer testimonial to make a statement about the efficacy of a product, the advertiser must now disclose what the typical results would be. Advertisers must also disclose the basis for any survey evidence used in their advertisements, as well as their connection to the surveying entity.
In short, if you are a blogger or affiliate marketer who reviews products, uses testimonials to sell products, or relies on celebrity endorsements, it is important that you understand these new rules. Contact an attorney that is familiar with these rules to ensure that you are in compliance, as even blogging attorneys must comply with the rules.
Disclosure: Traverse Legal is a sponsor of Absolute Michigan.