The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on whether to make changes to its Endorsement Guides as part of the agency’s systematic review of all current FTC rules and guides.
The Endorsement Guides, formally known as the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, first enacted in 1980 and amended in 2009, provide guidance to businesses and others to ensure that advertising using endorsements or testimonials abide by the requirements of the FTC Act. Among other things, the Guides state that when there is a connection between an endorser and a seller of an advertised product that could affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement, the connection must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
In a Federal Register notice, the FTC is seeking comment on a wide range of questions, including:
- whether the practices addressed by the Guides are prevalent in the marketplace and whether the Guides are effective at addressing those practices;
- whether consumers have benefitted from the Guides and what impact, if any, they have had on the flow of truthful information to consumers;
- whether changes in technology or the economy require changes to the Guides;
- whether guidance in the FTC’s guidance document “The FTC’s Enforcement Guides: What People Are Asking” should be incorporated into the Guides;
- how well advertisers and endorsers are disclosing unexpected material connections in social media;
- whether children are capable of understanding disclosures of material connections and how those disclosures might affect children;
- whether incentives like free or discounted products bias consumer reviews even when a favorable review is not required to receive the incentive, and whether or how those incentives should be disclosed;
- whether composite ratings that include reviews based on incentives are misleading even when reviewers disclose incentives in the underlying reviews;
- whether the Guides should address the use of affiliate links by endorsers; and
- what, if any, disclosures advertisers or operators of review sites need to make about the collection and processing of publication of reviews to prevent them from being deceptive or unfair.
The Commission vote to approve the Federal Register notice was 5-0. Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a separate statement. Instructions for filing comments appear in the notice. Comments must be received within 60 days of publication and will be posted on regulations.gov.
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