Important FTC Updates to Online Disclosures

dot com disclosures
Here’s an addition/update to our Why You Must Disclose Earnings on Your Blog post.

The FTC has released an update to their original Dot Com Disclosures.

Some key points and what they mean:

“Under the new guidance, this means advertisers should ensure that the disclosure is clear and conspicuous on all devices and platforms that consumers may use to view the ad.”
This means that you should be able to access your disclosure policy or see disclosure information from the mobile version of your site.

“Although the 2000 guidelines defined proximity as “near, and when possible, on the same screen,” and stated that advertisers should “draw attention to” disclosures, the new guidance says disclosures should be “as close as possible” to the relevant claim.” and “Display disclosures before consumers make a decision to buy”
To satisfy this, I recommend you have a disclosure policy in your sidebar as well as at the beginning and end of each post. It is silly to think that we have to put a link to a disclosure after every single link. Having the disclosure at the beginning and end should do just fine.

“The new guidelines also call for labeling hyperlinks as specifically as possible.”
This is one that you should already be doing. You don’t want to deceive readers into clicking affiliate links. Make sure it is clear as to what that link leads to.

“The new guidance points out that advertisers using space-constrained ads, such as on some social media platforms, must still provide disclosures necessary to prevent an ad from being deceptive.”
This means that if you are doing sponsored Tweets or Facebook updates, you are required to disclose that you are being paid just for posting that update. I don’t particularly agree with Tweeting for money anyway, so this one should be avoided anyway.
Here’s an obvious Twitter clone that the FTC provided in their update. As you see, they want sponsored Tweets to be disclosed as well. Even with the simple text “Ad:” preceding a sponsored Tweet.
social media ad disclosure

“Prominently display disclosures so they are noticeable to consumers, and evaluate the size, color, and graphic treatment of the disclosure in relation to other parts of the webpage.”
Don’t make your disclosure information microscopic.

“A disclosure can only qualify or limit a claim to avoid a misleading impression. It cannot cure a false claim.”
It is not okay to lie about a product just because you disclose that you were paid for talking about it. Do not claim to like a product that you hate, or that you have tried a product that you have not. Do not link and promote a blog as “one of your favorites” if you’ve never read that blog. All of this should be obvious.

“Hyperlinks that simply say “disclaimer,” “more information,” “details,” “terms and conditions,” or “fine print” do not convey the importance, nature, and relevance of the information to which they lead and are likely to be inadequate.”
Try something more like, “This post contains affiliate links. To see more about what this means, see my disclosure policy here.” And link the entire phrase, “see my disclosure policy here.”

“Similarly, if a product’s basic cost (e.g., the cost of the item before taxes, shipping and handling, and any other fees are added on) is advertised on one page, but there are significant additional fees the consumer would not expect to incur in order to purchase the product or use it on an ongoing basis, the existence and nature of those additional fees should be disclosed on the same page and immediately adjacent to the cost claim, and with appropriate prominence.”
So if an item is free, but there is an $8 shipping charge, it is not free and the shipping charge should be disclosed on your site. Again, this is to prevent readers from being deceived.

These are all very strict sounding rules, but the new update goes on to say:
“The ultimate test is not the size of the font or the location of the disclosure, although they are important considerations; the ultimate test is whether the information intended to be disclosed is actually conveyed to consumers. There is no litmus test for determining whether a disclosure is clear and conspicuous, and in some instances, there may be more than one method that seems reasonable. In such cases, the best practice would be to select the method more likely to effectively communicate the information in question.”
This means that you should use your best judgement and be honest with yourself. Can people see your disclosure policy? Are you trying to mask or hide it? You know the answer and should make the appropriate changes.

In summary, this stuff looks harsh, but it’s not all that bad. You may have to make your disclosure info a little bit more prominent, but that’s about it. Some might take this as far as putting a disclosure under each ad, but I’ll wait to see Google’s response to this new update first. I will do whatever they tell me to do with regard to their ads. You should already had a disclosure in place and should certainly be giving your honest, unbiased opinion about products, services and other blogs that you are being paid to work with. The other main focus point here is mobile sites. They stress that the disclosures should be visible on all mediums (PC, laptop, cell, tablet). Blogger has a pretty good mobile site in place, so if you have text information about your disclosures, you will be okay here. I know a couple of my sites that will need tweaking.

Additionally, if you are writing a full sponsored post, product review or feature, you should provide a separate disclosure on that post.
Here are some examples:
“The following post is sponsored content. All opinions are my own.”
“I received this product to keep and review however all opinions are my own.”
“I received compensation for this post, however all opinions remain my own.”

That should be sufficient for disclosing income and sponsorships on your blog. Just remember, if you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re earning money from anything on your site, you’re doing it wrong.


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