FTC Proposes Changes to Online Advertising Disclosures

On May 26, 2011, the Federal Trade Commission has announced that it will be updating its published guidelines on how online companies may comply with federal advertising law.  In accordance with its normal practices the FTC is accepting public comments on how best to modify its earlier publication, “Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising,” which was released in 2000, when Internet commerce was in a relatively early phase of its rapid evolution.  In “Dot Com Disclosures,” the FTC first made it clear that the well-established consumer protection laws already in effect also applied to online marketers, and stressed the need for clear and conspicuous disclosures in Internet advertising.

Obviously, much has changed in the past 11 years, and to be frank, an update to the guidelines is long overdue.  Between traditional online advertising campaigns, mobile marketing, blogs, and social media advertising, the landscape is entirely different, and the FTC is seeking public comment on how best to apply the existing framework of laws to all of these areas.  It is specifically interested in “the technical and legal issues that marketers, consumer advocates, and others believe should be addressed.”

When released, the new rules will affect all companies that market on the Internet or through the use of mobile services such as in-app advertising, and all established companies and individual entrepreneurs that operate in these spaces should take the time to submit comments to assist the FTC in crafting sensible, workable rules.   

The public comment period began May 26, 2011, and runs for 45 days, through July 11, 2011. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically, using the following link https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/dotcomdisclosures/ or in paper form, mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex I), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.  

Companies interested in submitting comments are welcome to contact me to discuss how best to formulate their opinions.

Author: Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.

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