The Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) Endorsement Guides have evolved over the past forty years from regulating celebrity endorsements and testimonial advertisements to policing social media advertising, including influencer endorsements and native advertising. On February 12, 2020, the FTC announced that it had voted 5‑0 to approve a proposed Federal Register Notice, seeking comment on whether to make changes to its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (“the Endorsement Guides”), which were enacted in 1980 and amended in 2009, as part of a systematic review of all current FTC rules and practices. The Endorsement Guides have steadfastly required transparency in advertising and, if there is a connection between an endorser and the company selling the product or services being advertised or promoted which, if disclosed, might affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement, such connection must be disclosed clearly and conspicuously.
Retailers and service providers should take note: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is increasing its scrutiny of negative option marketing activity to combat unfair or deceptive practices related to subscriptions, memberships and other recurring-payment programs. The FTC issued today a notice of proposed rulemaking as part of its ongoing review of its 1973 Negative Option Rule—one of the primary guides for the FTC’s enforcement focus.…
Environmental marketing claims often present something of a Catch-22—companies that are doing actual good for the environment deserve to reap the benefits of their efforts, and consumers deserve to know, while at the same time, heightened scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the National Advertising Division (NAD), state regulators and the plaintiffs’ bar have made such claims increasingly risky.…
On August 9, the US District Court of Georgia ruled that the FTC had provided “broad and detailed evidence” for its allegations that a tech company and its CEO engaged in deceptive advertising and unfair fee practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. The FTC’s 2019 complaint alleged the defendants made deceptive representations to customers and charged hidden, unauthorized fees in connection with the company’s “fuel card” as well as through co-branded cards, to companies in the trucking and commercial fleet industry. The FTC’s factual allegations include the following: …
The FTC is seeking public comment on proposed changes to its Endorsement Guides. These changes aim to strengthen the guidelines against advertisers posting falsely positive reviews or by manipulating reviews by suppressing negative ones.…
Tapjoy, Inc. (“Tapjoy”), a mobile advertising company, settled FTC allegations that it failed to provide promised in-game rewards to consumers. Tapjoy operates an advertising platform that works within mobile games and offers in-game virtual currency to users who complete the activities of third-party advertisers (i.e. purchase products, sign up for a free trial, take a survey). Despite hundreds of consumer complaints, Tapjoy failed to deliver on its promises to consumers who earned in-game rewards.
Continue Reading Mobile Advertising Company Gets Flack from FTC for Failure to Deliver Upon Advertised Promises
Brands and influencers could unknowingly be violating the FTC’s endorsement rules by using TikTok to promote paid posts and sponsored content without including the necessary disclosures. TikTok offers native direct download and social sharing tools that enable users to share TikTok videos on other social media platforms without the caption and hashtags from the original video description, which may include disclosures that were included as required by the FTC to identify paid advertising.
Continue Reading Native TikTok Tools May Create Liability for Brands and Influencers
Sunday Riley launched her skincare firm Sunday Riley Modern Skincare, LLC (“SRMS”) in 2009 and its skincare products, including Good Genes, Power Couple, U.F.O., C.E.O., Luna and Tidal, have enjoyed tremendous success, having been featured, promoted, and sold online through Sephora and its website, www. Sephora.com. On October 21, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced a consent order in an action for violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act against Ms. Riley and SRMS for posting false reviews of its Sunday Riley products and falsely representing that the false reviews reflected the opinions of ordinary customers of the products. The FTC’s proposed continuing consent order provides: (1) Riley and SRMS are prohibited from misrepresenting the status of any endorser or person providing a review of a product, including misrepresenting that an endorser or reviewer is an independent or ordinary user of the product; (2) Riley and SRMS are required to clearly disclose any unexpected material connection between SRMS and anyone reviewing a product; (3) Riley and SRMS are required to instruct employees, officers and agents as to their responsibilities for disclosing their connections to SRMS and any Sunday Riley product they endorse and that SRMS obtain signed acknowledgments from any endorser; and (4) Riley and SRMS are required to submit compliance reports to the FTC within one‑year of the order and to create records for twenty years and retain them for five years.…
Continue Reading “Good Genes?”: Maybe Not. FTC Takes Action Against Sunday Riley and Sunday Riley Modern Skincare, LLC For Employees False Reviews
The Federal Trade Commission recently released a Staff Report regarding consumer recognition of native and search advertising entitled “Blurred Lines”, summarizing its findings from its self-styled “exploratory research”. Unsurprisingly, the FTC concluded that the use of disclosures consistent with prior FTC guidance increased the likelihood that consumers would recognize online ads as ads.
Continue Reading Reading Between the Blurred Lines
On December 12, 2017, the FTC hosted a workshop to discuss informational injuries that consumers may suffer when their personal information is misused. Discussion topics included the types of informational injuries consumers suffer and business and consumer perspectives about costs, benefits and risks of collecting information.
Continue Reading FTC Workshop Provides Insight on Best Practices to Mitigate Informational Injuries
In our previous blog post, “Brands Beware!!! FTC Scrutinizing Influencer Posts for Compliance with Endorsement Guides,” we reported that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) had issued more than 90 letters to brands and influencers, making it clear that it is paying close attention to influencer-based marketing. More recently, the letters have been made publicly available, providing valuable insight into the types of disclosures that the FTC considers unacceptable or inadequate.
Continue Reading A Deeper Dive Into the FTC Crack-Down on Social Media Influencers: What You Should Know Before You Post