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Don’t Say That Online!

By: Natalie A. Remien
Just about every business now has a website, and in addition to that, many businesses also have a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter campaign. Most businesses now are aware that if they market products to children, there may be some special rules. However, many businesses are unaware of the new FTC rules concerning online content. This article takes a look at some FTC guidelines and encourages all businesses to be aware.
While it sounds like a “given”, website content must be truthful and evidence-based. If it is found to be deceptive, then the owner of that site could receive a written warning or a fine. Since FTC fines can exceed $10,000, business owners and managers must know and understand the rules.
For instance, does your business’s website include customer testimonials? Testimonials are a great way for consumers to connect with your product or service and feel comfortable making a purchase. However, if the person who gave the testimonial was paid or otherwise compensated in any way, then disclosure of that fact is a MUST. Likewise if you are a blogger, you must disclose whether you bought a product or if a product was given to you in order to write a review. These rules exist primarily to protect consumers but also to promote abundant competition and prevent monopolies. Therefore, while no business wants to clog up their advertising with all sorts of legal statements, businesses must find a readable (not miniscule) way to disclose any connection between the product or service being advertised and the promoter.
Businesses must specifically be aware that every one of their employees most likely has a personal social media account (or many accounts). If an employee reviews or makes a positive statement about the product of the business that he or she works for without disclosing that he or she is an employee, the business could be liable for the violation of the rules.  Businesses should review their policies regarding these matters and should also review their website Terms of Use and their Privacy Statements. Therefore, good policies concerning the online activities of your employees concerning the business or its products are imperative.
If you would like to discuss the issues discussed in this issue’s IP Tech Desk, please contact:
Natalie A. Remien at: or (312) 368-0100.