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The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: Being Up-Front With Consumers

Endorsements are an important tool for advertisers, and they can be persuasive to consumers. But the law says they also have to be truthful and not misleading. The FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising are guidelines designed to help advertisers of all stripes and in any medium – TV, print, radio, online, podcasts, social media – make sure that they meet this standard.  For example, advertisers are advised that using unrepresentative testimonials may be misleading if they are not accompanied by information describing what consumers can generally expect from use of the product or service. In addition, the Endorsement Guides let endorsers know that they shouldn’t talk about their experience with a product if they haven’t tried it, or make claims about a product that would require proof they don’t have. The Endorsement Guides also state that, if there is a connection between the endorser and the marketer of a product which would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, the connection should be disclosed. The Guides are not regulations but if advertisers don’t follow the Guides, the FTC may decide to investigate if the practices are unfair or deceptive under the FTC Act, in which case the FTC may decide to bring a lawsuit.

The FTC revised its Endorsement Guides in June 2023 to keep them up-to-date with the ways advertisers now reach consumers to promote products and services, including through social media and reviews. The Guides point out that marketers using these new techniques and media are subject to the same truthful advertising laws to which other forms of advertising have always been subject. That means, among other things, that people who are compensated to promote or review a product should disclose it.