For those website owners that do product endorsements or product reviews pay close attention to this article, it could help you from being forced to give up your commissions you made from the products you endorse.
You may have or may not have heard that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) they are the federal agency that enforces the Federal Trade Commission Act which back in 1914, which empowered “a president-appointed position [agency] to investigate the activities of trusts and stop unfair trade practices such as unlawful competition, false advertising mislabeling, adulteration and bribery”.
Over the years the agency has grown, and their responsibilities have matched their growth. Recently, they have created a set of guides that they use (case by case) to determine if any advertiser or endorser that they receive a complaint about is operating within the law.
These guides even though originally created for the FTC to use to figure out if businesses that were reported as conducting unlawfully were complying or not to the current laws.
Even though, the guide was initially designed to help agents during their preliminary investigations of non-compliance or compliance to advertising and endorsement laws. It is used for attempting to clarify any confusion in the laws regarding marketing and advertising through means of endorsements or testimonials.
This same guide, however, can also be used by individual website owners in the same fashion to make sure that they are within the guidelines of the law pertaining to advertising and endorsements.
To do this we must comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act, the part that affects our advertising, marketing, and endorsing of products strategies and the methods we can use is Section 5, Title IV – Unfair and Deceptive Practices. (UDAP).
So if the guide asks does the marketer make a statement that cannot be backed by any current trustworthy test result – then it is a false statement and a direct violation of 15 U.S.C. Chapter 2 §52 – Dissemination of false advertisements.
THE FTC CENSORS WHAT WE CAN SAY
Although I am a full supporter of the first amendment and free speech the government doe s have the right to censor our material to protect the common m consumer from deceptive advertising or fraudulent claims.
By using the same guideline question from above we know that we cannot make statements that cannot be backed up by some sort of documentation (tests, sampling, court orders, or what is considered as being normal or average).
An example of this would be, if you were to say:
“If you follow my steps exactly you are going to make lots of money.”
Now even though the statement above is generalized you are still guaranteeing that money can be made and lots of it. And unless you can prove that statement to be true then it would be considered as false advertising. BUT
If you were to say:
“By following my steps exactly it can greatly increase your odds of earning money”
This statement although very close to having the same meaning as the first statement, but it is worded so it leaves an opening and is essentially not promising anything definite but better odds: much like “a possibility of”, or “this could happen” not a guarantee just a statement of “a chance of potential” or “a likely hood of happening”.
Not only are there regulations on what you can say and how you can say it; but there are also certain places that you can and should place certain warnings or notices.
For instance, did you know that an affiliate announcement is required before you put an affiliate link to a product or website that you insert in any material!
Now, some of you might be asking where does it need to go?
How far in front of the affiliate link is the affiliate announcement required?
Cal here again!
With some information today that hopefully helps you keep all your affiliate commissions where they should be; in your pocket!
Before we go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear I am not a lawyer nor do I practice law anywhere the information I am passing on is clearly my opinion of what I have read on Office of the Law Revision Counsel United States Code website; and The Federal Trade Commission website.
Please either seek your own legal representation or do some diligent research on this topic yourself to make sure you are complying with current laws regulating the way we conduct our advertising and endorsing on our own websites.
It can and will make a difference if someone were to complain to the FTC THAT you are not being transparent enough with an involvement you have with a product, service, food, drug, or cosmetic you did a review of.
With that being said let’s continue to probe into the ins and outs of affiliate announcements and what the FTC requires and what is not mandatory to disclose.
First, off I understand an endorsement as any benefit we receive from mentioning, discussing, or acknowledging of any product, service, food, drug, or cosmetic given to us in return for a review of our honest opinion of the endorsed item, being offered within any of the material that was created by us.
This means blogs (any online written content), videos, audio recordings, and offline written publications.
This also includes material created by someone else in any of the material in which we have exclusive control over such as a guest blogger, guest on a podcast and so forth.
Where they are doing the same type of endorsement as I just previously mentioned, but they do it within our controlled material.
If they are receiving something for mentioning the item it is considered an endorsement and that connection needs to be as transparent as possible to the general public or the consumer.
HERE IS THE FTC’S COMMENT
It’s from their PDF file: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”.
“For purposes of this part, an endorsement means any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or institution.”
HOW THE FTC WHATS US TO DISCLOSE
This basically requires all affiliate marketers to post an announcement that the endorser (the blogger writing the review) is receiving whatever it is they receive for their endorsement of the product, service, food, drugs, or cosmetics within their reviews even if the endorsement is of the negative natural it is still a paid-for endorsement.
Yes, there is a correct way and a way that could get you in hot water if people complain about where your affiliate disclosure is located at.
If it is in video or audio recordings it should be near the beginning of the recording, you can mention that you posted a full disclaimer in the description area.
But the FTC prefers that you just give the full disclaimer at the beginning of the recording, providing complete transparency.
The FTC states that you don’t have to have any disclaimer drawn up by a lawyer or pay someone to design a special statement. The exact words from the FTC’s website are:
“Or at the start of a short video, y you might say, ‘The products I’m going to use in this video were given to me by their manufactures.’ That gives the necessary heads up- to your viewers”
However, either way from my understanding is acceptable as long as you let people know that if they purchase anything through your links or using your promotion code you will get paid a commission.
Secondly, if the product was given to you or given to you at a discount so that you would do the review. The more transparent the disclosure is the better in the FTC eyes.
SO WHAT ABOUT US BLOGGERS?
Again we have a couple of options on how we go about disclosing our endorsements the two most common ways of doing it and it is my opinion that all three are acceptable but the FTC prefers the last option on the list.
You can provide a link to your affiliate disclosure page within any material that has an affiliate link in it as long as the disclosure page link is transparent like using the alt text for the link: “My Affiliate Disclosure Page”, this page a is also commonly called the “Affiliate Announcement”, or even “My Affiliate Notice”
You can make a disclosure statement at the beginning of every article that has an affiliate link in it. Something like: “The links on this page lead to products that if you buy them I make a commission from the purchase”
You can make the statement just before the affiliate link. “By using this link to buy the product I make a commission”
It’s all about transparency to the consumer!!
That is the bottom line.
So I strongly suggest we all follow the FTC’s endorsement guides and we will have a worry-free blog and will be able to rest peacefully once again while we sleep and make money online from home or anywhere in the world that you have an internet connection.
The good thing about this whole situation and dealing with an FTC violation of this regulation 95% of the time the FTC will send you a warning notice for change, explaining to you what you are doing wrong and in most cases how to go about to correct the problem.
If you don’t take immediate action then you may face enforcement actions against you, and that enforcement will most likely be the forfeiture of commissions earned from purchases made after the notice was properly served on the owner of the material.
Despite what and how news media’s portrayal of the FTC is, it does not issue fines for infractions they seek resolutions and reimbursements from the consumer’s standpoint.
So if the FTC says your ad is misleading they simply force you to refund the consumer the money they spent because of the false advertisement.
If you need help with something or have a question please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me privately at my email address, and I will be more than happy to address the issue.
Or by chance, you would like to leave some relevant information as content that you feel may enhance this website/page, by all means, feel free to leave those comments below as well.
Additionally, I would like to thank you for visiting my website today and reading this blog to the end, it proves to me that I am on the right track and providing people with the best information that I have gathered over the years and in recent research is helpful to many