FTC says Bloggers must disclose payments for reviews

The Georgia Straight’s Stephen Hui reported online this morning that US bloggers must now disclose if they have been paid to review a product or they could face the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This is the first time the FTC has updated its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising for the first time since 1980. Today’s press release states:

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

Hui notes that the FTC also takes on celebrity endorsements that appear on social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter:

The revised Guides also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

Violations could cost bloggers (and celebrities) up to US $11K in fines.