FTC Backpedals on Disclosure for Reviews

Oct 282009
 

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Okay, now this is getting strange. First, as mentioned previously, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) created a big flap a few weeks ago when it said it will fine bloggers $11,000 if they endorse a product without admitting they got the product for free. Now, at least one FTC official is backpedaling or clarifying, depending on how charitable you want to be.

The good news: Book reviewers are safe.  The bad news: Those Amazon links on your website may not be.

According to an article in Publisher’s Weekly, FTC lawyer Mary Engle said at a blogger conference that writers with a “personal blog, writing a genuine or organic review,” did not need to disclose how they got a book or assign it a value.

“We have nothing to do with the IRS. I have no idea if you are supposed to declaring that as compensation. We were just looking for a word that wasn’t “paid,” because there are ways of being compensated for posts or tweets that don’t involve actual pay.” By extension, her comment implies that if you review other products, including restaurant food or packaged food and wine, you may be safe.

She was less sure, however, about whether earnings from links to amazon.com or indiebound.com need better labeling. “‘I think that’s harder, and we don’t have a hard and fast position on that yet,’ said Engle, who wondered out loud if it was as clear-cut as a doctor who gets profits from the sale of medicine made by a company he has a financial stake in. ‘Is an Amazon affiliate program similar to that? Or does a reasonable consumer clearly understand that the blogger gets a cut from every sale? The examples that are at the black-and-white ends are easy but in the middle there’s a lot of stuff we’re not sure about yet.’”

So stay tuned, as the FTC figures it out as they go along.

Thanks to Carole Bidnick for sending me the link.

  3 Responses to “FTC Backpedals on Disclosure for Reviews”

  1. Interesting. I wonder what prompted this? Are they under fire from somewhere that I haven’t seen?

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Good question. She was speaking to bloggers at a conference, so it was a relevant topic. Clearly, the FTC hasn’t figured out all the implications of this new fine.

  2. I link to Amazon like I link to Wikipedia, beacuse I am pretty sure the links will exist long-term. I’m not using any affiliate program link and don’t have an interest to promote their sales. I would have loved to link to a small biz but, very sadly, one day they’re there and one day they’re gone and the links gone with them. Amazon links stay and it’s a good tool for me when I want to show a photo or description of an object I’m talking about it (again, without trying to sell it or make money out of it)

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