From 1 December 2009, North America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (the US equivalent of the ACCC) wants bloggers, including Twitter users, to make it clear when they have received cash or products in exchange for writing positive reviews, endorsements and testimonials. The FTC’s new Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising announced in October 2009 have proved very controversial.
The Guidelines – updated for the first time in 30 years – address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of material connections between advertisers and endorsers. They suggest that “material connections”, including payment and free products between advertisers and endorsers (connections that consumers would not expect) must be disclosed. The revised Guidelines 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. So if United States bloggers receive a free book, CD or cosmetic sample and reviews it online, it will need to be disclosed on their blogs or Tweets. Likewise, any money that is received to ” blog for profit” must also be disclosed. Bloggers claim the new Guidelines represent a double standard for newspapers, magazines and broadcasters – who have in the main operated for many years without such guidelines.