FTC’s New Rules for Marketers – Do You Know What to Do?

If you sell products through your blog or website, whether as an affiliate or whether these are your own products, it’s important that you understand the FTC’s new rules so that you can be in compliance with them – or as much in compliance as is humanly possible.

Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commission
Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commission

Image via Wikipedia

A lot has been said recently in the blogosphere about the new rules recently created by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) which effect affiliate marketers and bloggers – in some cases, quite extensively, and in other cases, not so much.

If you sell products through your blog or website, whether as an affiliate or whether these are your own products, it’s important to understand these rules so that you can be in compliance with them – or as much in compliance as is humanly possible.

I say “as humanly possible,” because some of the new regulations are written in such vague terms, that their interpretation is open to far more opinion than befits any professional law-making body.

I am not a lawyer and nothing I say constitutes legal advice (by the way, you will see this statement paraphrased in many blog posts on this subject :) ) I am giving my opinions and views, and strongly advise you to do your own further research and study all applicable rules for yourself.

The new rules seem to be mainly concerned with the following elements of your websites and your product promotions:

  • Proper disclosure of financial benefits you receive by recommending products or services
  • Compliance with new rules regarding testimonials, and disclaimers on promotions of product or services.

Factually, if you are a relatively honest person, you are far less likely to have any trouble with this issue.  But you should still understand it – honest people have made mistakes too, sometimes big ones.

And the bottom line is, if you aren’t in compliance with the law, you risk being sued or worse.  But don’t get overly terrified.  If you are a new marketer without a lot of traffic, if your customers are generally happy with you, and if you are generally honest in your promotions, your chances of getting into trouble are already drastically reduced.  That still doesn’t mean you can count on it that nothing could ever go wrong.

The purpose of this post is not so much to go into the rightnesses or wrongnesses of what the FTC is doing, but to point you in the direction of some information and tools that can help you protect yourself and be prepared.

Some excellent posts have been published on the subject and I highly recommend you read them.  I won’t restate what’s already been stated so eloquently by others.

Furthermore, as painful as it may seem, it’s always best to read the original rules as published by the FTC, so that you can interpret them for yourself as well.  You can download the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials (the stated effective date is December 1, 2009).

The following are some excellent posts I can recommend on this subject:

Where to Get Disclosure Policies, Disclaimer Policies, and Other Legal Documents

You can create a simple disclosure policy for free at the the Disclosure Policy website.  (This is not necessarily all you will need in order to be in compliance with FTC regulations but it’s definitely a good start):

And finally, a product I personally use for all of my websites is called Auto Web Law Pro.  This service (created by an experienced attorney who later became an Internet Marketer, as far as I remember) will provide you with customizable documents which you can use to protect yourself and to comply with FTC guidelines:

  • Disclosures
  • Disclaimers, including Earnings Disclaimers
  • Website terms of use
  • Copyright Documents
  • Privacy policies
  • Freelance contracts
  • Joint Venture and Collaboration Agreements
  • Country Specific Documents
  • Miscellaneous Documents for Blogs, Emails, eBooks, Product Promotion, Articles, and Videos.
  • Newsletter Disclaimers
  • Non-Disclosure Forms
  • Purchase Agreements and Disclaimers
  • Software Development Agreements
  • Trademark Documents
  • Affiliate Agreements
  • Software and Information License Agreements
  • Etc.

In short, this service was designed to provide any legal document an Internet Marketer needs.  It’s not a substitute for a lawyer but other than that it’s the most comprehensive solution I’ve found.  The service provides you with customizable forms – just enter in the data it asks for, and it will create a full legal document for you.  I use this on all of my websites.

The documents are also updated regularly – according to the creators, they constantly stay in touch with FTC rules and guidelines in order to make sure the documents they provide you with are up to date, and you have lifetime access to each update.  (From my side, all I can see is that I do see new and modified documents when I log onto the service after some time has passed).

If you would like to learn more, I recommend you visit:

Auto Web Law Pro

And – oh – disclaimer: If you purchase the product through my link, I will get an affiliate commission :) !  (You probably already know that, but I’m just saying …)

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17 Responses to “FTC’s New Rules for Marketers – Do You Know What to Do?”

  1. Jenny R
    October 10, 2009 at 3:51 pm #

    Been reading alot about this and shared it with my readers as well. I am not particularly happy with these changes, but what can you do.

    In your understanding, every time you recommend something on your blog, or otherwise, you should put a disclaimer as you did above?

    Also thank you for the Auto Web Law Pro, I will be taking advantage of that.

    Jenny
    .-= Jenny R´s last blog ..FTC’s New Rules For Bloggers and Endorsements Of Products =-.

  2. Anna
    October 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

    Hi Jenny – to be honest, I’m not sure. It does seem a bit extreme doesn’t it. I was half joking, and half not.

    I also added a disclaimer to my footer which appears on each web page, plus the links to my legal documents … but I definitely will be doing more research on this for myself. I also downloaded the PDF on the new rules. I think they managed to communicate is as confusing a manner as possible. A simple bulleted list of rules would be nice!

    I will do my own research, but rather than try to interpret too much for other people, I wanted to provide resources and data people could access to make better judgments for themselves. Especially since there is already plenty of confusion on what is the right way to go about certain things. If I uncover any more useful information I will let you know!

    In the meantime, I highly recommend the links above that I labeled “important” as well as the product I linked to. That really helps you to get a better grasp of what you’re dealing with, and keep your bases covered as well.

  3. Dave Doolin
    October 11, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    I Am Not A Lawyer. The following does not constitute legal advice.

    The crazy thing about the rules for affiliates is that I can’t see how it could possibly matter. There’s typically no price difference between the affiliate and the non-affiliate sale to the customer.

    I’m pretty sure that the affiliate issue could be totally sidestepped with software. It would be pretty easy for at least some sites offering an affiliate sale to present a very simple custom & branded “web store front.”

    I’ve read they left the rules vague on purpose. The “real” rules will emerge over time as they go after who they perceive to be infringers. We’ll see.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Suck readers in from RSS and SERPs — Dig Deeper Into Subtitles =-.

  4. Anna
    October 11, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    @Dave – Hmmm … I think that’s nuts.

    Just my personal opinion, expressed for entertainment purposes only.

    I suppose we should keep in touch with how things progress and read up on rules and changes as possible. I am not personally worried about anything horrible happening because I am honest in my promotions, haven’t been going around making enemies, and … oh, there is really no point in suing me :)

    I’ll still do what I can to comply with the law. But I’ll worry more when I’m a millionaire :)

  5. Elvenrunelord
    October 11, 2009 at 11:52 pm #

    Recently I started studying the rule of law here in America and frankly its a mess.

    What is clear though is that the FTC does not have the ability to create any form of law. That aspect of government is limited to Congress and under certain circumstances the President, which after Bush jr, and Obama we know should be limited even more so than it already is.

    The FTC can offer guidelines, mandates, and other intimidating words, however it is up to the justice department to take any action whatsoever that is to be taken.

    With that said, the FTC has a lot of weight in Washington DC and I actually think this is a good idea, which in the end is also what I think is so messed up.

    I am of the mind that this mandate of the FTC’s is against the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments of the United States Constitution.

    The first being that the government shall make no laws concerning the freedom of speech, the fifth being the right not to speak, and the 4th being the right to reasonable privacy.

    Recently the congress of America asked the Federal Reserve to reveal where the TARP funding went and was basically told to stick it where the sun don’t shine! If it is good enough for the Federal Reserve it’s good enough for me. In saying this I feel the Federal Reserve considers its business records, and connections to be personal and proprietary information that could cause the corporation and others harm should that information be made public.

    As shady as that sounds they are on sound footing when it comes to the highest laws of our land and the congress will either have to create a constitutional amendment and/or take their case all the way to the supreme court before getting their hands on those records if they themselves follow rule of law.

    I am not an attorney and I have nothing to gain or loose by offering this information. What I am is a constitutionalist who sees the government going beyond its legal bounds each and every day and NO one stands up and calls them on it.

    We were given a Republic government by our forefathers and they said we could have it if we could keep it, and we are doing a very poor job of doing so. Many people in this country think we are a democracy due to hearing the word on the news for a couple generations, nothing could be further from the truth. We are nothing less than a representational republic with rights that CANNOT be taken away for any reason if they are contained within the bill or rights or the constitution.

    And yet, the state and federal governments get away with it all the time because people are unwilling to stand up and put a stop to this unacceptable behavior. I really don’t want to see it happen but in the end we may have to impeach every single person in Washington and that is not going to be a pretty site, because I have no illusions that they will agree to this happening.

    Civil unrest of a kind we have never seen is what will occur here and at this time and place in the world I suspect this country would be invaded within 12 months of such civil unrest starting.

    More and more people are getting angry at how the government is abusing its power that is solely given to it by the people of this country. Eventually something is going to come to a head and a lot of people are going to die. This is not something I want to see happen, but if the people of this nation continue to be ignored by their employees ( you did know that is what every single one of those people in Washington who’s salaries are paid with your tax money is don’t you? ) Then eventually the people fire the staff and start from scratch.

    And thus begins a generation of hell for those living in this country. I can’t begin to tell you the type of lives we all will be living at that point because I have no idea how bad it will get, I do know that as much as corporate interests have invested in Washington right now, that they will not leave peacefully no matter what we the people say.

    I will not participate in any of this action on either side. I’m just a simple man with simple ideas and goals, but it does not take a rocket scientist to see that the great melting pot experiment is getting ready to blow if real change does not occur soon.
    .-= Elvenrunelord´s last blog ..The 5th Amendment: What you need to know =-.

  6. Forest
    October 12, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    Hi Anna,

    I wasn’t worried when I first read this but the more I read the more I realise that it could cause a few issues so I may have to go through 100′s of old posts! I don’t think I have been dishonest but have occasionally just dropped an amazon or ebay link in when mentioning a product and things like that!

    Anyway onto other things…. I have given you a Kreativ blogger award andjust thought you should know :) http://www.realbloggingtips.com/michelle-motivated-monday-the-keativ-blogger-award-and-my-famous-blogger-club-interview/
    .-= Forest´s last blog ..Michelle Motivated Monday: The Keativ Blogger Award and My Famous Blogger Club Interview =-.

  7. Anna
    October 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    Thank you Forest!!!

    I know I need to write a post about this and pass the award on … I have put it “on my list.” I will be traveling a bit over the next few days …

    I agree, it is a bit disconcerting that we would have to revamp all of our websites … personally, I at least have a disclaimer on each page (in the footer) and links to more documents. It would seem pretty dumb if I have to say “THIS IS AN AFFILIATE LINK!” next to each Amazon product.

  8. Web Career Girl
    October 19, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    I am not bothered by this really. For a start I’m not in the US, though I do think I should comply with US law since my sites are marketed to the US. But secondly I want to be honest, and I want laws that might force some less honest people to start being honest. The tricky thing is knowing how to comply with the law, but it seems like it wil be OK.
    .-= Web Career Girl´s last blog ..The Start of a New Week, And My First Blog Award =-.

  9. Internet Network Marketing Business
    November 14, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    Do you think it’s enough just to put it on your disclaimer or about us page (linked to your footer) or do you have to put “I am an affiliate” next to each and every link?
    .-= Internet Network Marketing Business´s last blog ..The Perfect Internet Network Marketing System =-.

  10. Hanah@adjustable bed frame
    November 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    I’m also not from the US but I’m trying to find everything I can about this as I’m afraid on how it will affect us all, no matter where we live. Do you think that if you’re from outside of the US we can go on as before or we have to reevaluate how we do things? Bit scary to think, to be honest…I mean even links to Amazon? c’mon how will we be able to put a kind of disclaimer next to each link, it’s just not practical and feasible…
    .-= Hanah@adjustable bed frame´s last blog ..Adjustable Bed Frame – Get the Best Deals Online =-.

  11. Anna
    November 22, 2009 at 2:34 am #

    @Hanah – I included the reference links in the post so that people could read them and make their own evaluations and decisions. I can’t give any legal advice on this, but I recommend you study up on it and determine your best course of action.

  12. Low Cholesterol Diets
    November 29, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Wow thanks for this. I have a few blogs where I obviously recommend various affiliate products and I’m also a bit worried with Dec. 1 just around the corner (a very sharp corner!). Came across your blog when I was searching for the FTC rules for IMers. Also thanks for the links of reference. Off to study as I’m seriously not sure what I have to do. Add a llittle disclaimer next to EACH of my affiliate links, or a disclaimer somewhere on the blog is enough? I guess I’ll also watch what others like me will be doing soon…
    .-= Low Cholesterol Diets´s last blog ..Lower cholesterol levels without drugs =-.

  13. ORCA Franchise
    December 23, 2009 at 6:59 am #

    I have been reading about the new FTC regulations from the other side of the Atlantic in the UK. I don’t believe there is anything that is currently in place to govern affiiliate links but I expect something will be announced sooner or later.

    From what I can tell these measures could be a good thing – I don’t think people should be endorsing products without users knowing that they are being paid to do so.
    .-= ORCA Franchise´s last blog ..16/12/09 – The ‘ORCA Lifestyle’ is brilliant! =-.

  14. sarah@Florida dui attorney
    January 2, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    The only reasons I use disclaimers and privacy policies on my sites where I sell stuff is to 1. gain trust of the customers and 2. Google likes to see stuff like that just in case I am fortunate enough to get a “visual” inspection.
    .-= sarah@Florida dui attorney´s last blog ..All About Florida Ignition Interlock Devices =-.

  15. Dave Doolin
    February 28, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Anna, trackback showed up over on my site… thanks for linking me.

    I had some hosting issues, big denial of service attack, put me behind a bit. I’ll be back after it shortly.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..How a 9 Day Denial of Service Attack Affected Blog Traffic =-.

  16. Anna
    March 2, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Really? That is awful. Hope all is sorted out by now …

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