Submission Number: 00008
Received: 6/6/2011 12:45:41 PM
Commenter: William Sardi
Organization: Resveratrol Partners LLC
Agency: Federal Trade Commission
Initiative: FTC Seeks Input for Revising Its Guidance to Businesses About Online Advertising; FTC Matter No. P114506
Attachments: No Attachments
I write to the FTC as a marketer of dietary supplements.
I have watched as online outlaws have stolen a great deal of our business, making false and unsubstantiated claims for their products and inducing customers with free-bottle offers and then billing them monthly for product they never ordered.
Our company has attempted to legally pursue online violators of our trademarks, copyrighted material and other unfair business practices. The problems in doing this are innumerable.
For one, when there are so many online violators it becomes impossible for a small company to pursue all violators from a financial standpoint. Our copyrights and trademarks have been rendered useless because of this.
Second, outlaw competitors use pseudonyms and hide behind "by proxy" registrations with companies that register their URLs so we must file a lawsuit to obtain the names of alleged offenders, just to send a cease and desist letter. Thus, the current online marketing system represents a criminal syndicate.
Third, Google allows other parties to use our trade name to divert traffic to their websites and provides data to any and all competitors about the business we do online.
Fourth, Google does not enforce FTC advertising guidelines as other advertising venues do (newspaper, TV, etc). Where is the FTC compliance department at Google? Google has illegally profiteered and we simply cannot stand up to that size of a company. Google has allowed our competitors to walk all over us, steal our business, etc.
Fifth, it is my experience, that with no timely action against offenders by the FTC (we have been informed that FTC will take no action until it receives 100 complaints), that unfair competition exists favoring companies that DO attempt to comply with the regulations.
The current model for successful dietary supplement marketing is to ignore the laws (are they even aware of them?), make money, and then use their ill-gotten gains to pay penalties and fight sanctions. These companies then clean up their act, but have literally stolen business from other competitors in the process, and have done so with impunity. It pays to ignore the rules.
My suggestion, in the field of dietary supplements, is that all supplement companies be required to obtain a license and that their executives sign documents that they have read and intend to comply with FDA Title 21 labeling and advertising requirements and FTC advertising guidelines. Second, that all online advertisers of any kind must publicly list the names of their executives, ownership, geographic location, online or be banned from the internet.
Another option is for industry to form their own regulatory agencies and work with government, as the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA)has done.
Our company considers Google a major outlaw company that is allowed to make profits unlawfully off of click fees and hides as a hidden party in all this fraud. Google needs to be stopped. Google makes money using data obtained from our company website to make money. We have been told that we have legal recourse by Google's attorneys. But just how does a small company stand up against Google?
We currently consider online marketing to be unfriendly to small business and that the current online marketing system represents a crime syndicate.
Resveratrol Partners LLC
Las Vegas, NV