Fashion Bloggers and the Federal Trade Commission Endorsement Guides

            The bread and butter of the fashion blogger are the samples sent from various designers and artists attempting to get noticed. Before, writing a glowing blog review, make sure that you are not running afoul of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Endorsement Guides. The rules changed in 2009 and it may seem counter-intuitive, but it comes down to this:

IF YOU REGULARLY RECEIVE FREE PRODUCTS AND BLOG ABOUT THEM, YOU PROBABLY SHOULD DISCLOSE TO YOUR READERS THE ONGOING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE COMPANY SENDING YOU THE FREE PRODUCTS!

Clothing Rack

1.      WHY SHOULD A FASHION BLOGGER DISCLOSE THAT IT RECEIVED A FREE PRODUCT WHEN WRITING A BLOG REVIEW?

The Federal Trade Commission’s is concerned with truth-in-advertising. It is the FTC’s job to protect consumers. The FTC has Three Basic Truth-in-Advertising principles:

Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading….

If there is a connection between the endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.”

In the fashion blogger situation, regularly getting free stuff creates a connection between you and the company sending you free products. Failure to tell your readers about the connection is misleading because disclosure of the connection will affect the confidence your reader’s give to your recommendations. So disclosure is a must!

Dress form

2.      WHAT DOES THE FTC CONSIDER AN ENDORSEMENT? WHO IS AN ENDORSER?

WHAT?

Any advertising message that a consumer will believe is the actual experience, opinion, or belief of the person making the message. Such as:

verbal statements,

demonstrations, or

depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization

Testimonials and endorsements are treated the same under the FTC Guides.

WHO?

The person whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or institution.

3.   EXAMPLE OF ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE

A Fashion Blogger Anne receives a free skirt each month from Company B. Every month Anne writes a glowing blog review about how amazing these skirts are and shows a picture of her wearing the skirts. Likely, Anne’s readers have no idea that she is receiving the skirts for free each month. Anne may genuinely like these skirts and believe they are amazing.

 ”Well, yeah of course she loves the skirts. She is getting them for free!”

The fact that Anne is receiving these skirts for free would likely factor into how much credence her readers give to her blog reviews.  It is misleading not to disclose that the skirts are being sent to Anne for free. Disclosure is a must!

4.   FTC ENDORSEMENT GUIDE MYTHS

The FTC is not monitoring bloggers so do not become paranoid. The FTC’s focus is advertisers and truth-in-advertising. Each case is reviewed independently based on the facts and circumstances particular to that situation. Advertisers are the focus of FTC investigations.

RESOURCES ON FTC ENDORSEMENT GUIDES:

1.    FTC: What People are Asking?

2.   Electronic Codes of Federal Regulations, Title 16

Disclaimer: The contents on this blog are informational only and not meant, intended, nor should be considered legal advice, advertisement, or solicitation for business. The material posted on this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship, and readers should not act upon it without seeking professional counsel.

Furthermore, the information contained on this blog is not specific to any particular set of circumstances. All links to outside information are meant to provide further information on the topic addressed, I make no warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information contained herein or in the attached links.

by Attorney Judith Elaine Hoover on 01/26/12

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