My FTC Review Site Loophole

29 replies
Sorry, I couldn't resist the title!

Hey Warriors,

Like many others on this forum I own a lot of affiliate review sites and with the new FTC regulation it raises some concern for how review sites may be effected by all this.

So here's my strategy for staying on the up and up with my review sites...

I think the key to avoiding trouble with the FTC and review sites is to act as the middle man for information and simply report to your visitors what others are saying about the product around the web. This is even easier and can be more effective than writing reviews yourself.

Leverage reviews snippets from various sources and give proper attribution to the source the review came from. This way your not directly making any claims and it lets you off the hook since you're only relaying information found somewhere else.

-Aaron
#ftc #loophole #review #site
  • Profile picture of the author TheMagicShow
    Do these ftc policies only apply to endorsements & testimonials? If some has a headline like: "Learn How To Get 5,000 Twitter Followers, in 24 Hours... With A Push Of A Button" , will the ftc give them hell? I'm still abit confused on what the ftc is after.

    TIA
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    • Profile picture of the author Srikanth D
      How does these FTC changes affect the non-US residents?
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      • Profile picture of the author kelvin yeo
        Originally Posted by Srikanth D View Post

        How does these FTC changes affect the non-US residents?
        Am wondering the same thing myself.
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      • Profile picture of the author bobsilber
        Originally Posted by kelvin yeo View Post

        Am wondering the same thing myself.
        Originally Posted by Srikanth D View Post

        How does these FTC changes affect the non-US residents?
        The short answer is you need to follow the laws of the country you do business in and the FTC has and does cross boarder enforcement, on marketers from other countries, doing business in the U.S.

        .
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        • Profile picture of the author spearce000
          Originally Posted by bobsilber View Post

          The short answer is you need to follow the laws of the country you do business in and the FTC has and does cross boarder enforcement, on marketers from other countries, doing business in the U.S.

          .
          .
          This is one of the biggest problems in IM, and why there needs to be some sort of international body to oversee the Internet. Otherwise EVERY website must comply with EVERY law in EVERY country it can be accessed from. Yet many of these laws are contradictory. A situation could easily arise where adhering to a requirement in one country means you're committing a crime in another.

          As far as this is FTC ruling concerned (and it's just a reinterpretation of an existing law that has yet to be tested in the courts) if you're really worried you could always block out visitors from the US -- online gaming sites do it all the time. Found this site that will do it for you block a country, block by ip address, deny access by country
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      • Profile picture of the author James Campbell
        Originally Posted by Srikanth D View Post

        How does these FTC changes affect the non-US residents?
        Generally I would say no.

        Check with your host though because it being hosted in the US could raise an issue.

        Being personally prosecuted by the FTC if you are not a US Citizen, you do not reside in the US and your business is not incorporated in the US, odds are you are pretty safe.

        Me being Canadian and everything being Canadian, I really don't care what the FTC has to say.

        James
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        • Profile picture of the author Steven Carl Kelly
          Originally Posted by James Campbell View Post

          Being personally prosecuted by the FTC if you are not a US Citizen, you do not reside in the US and your business is not incorporated in the US, odds are you are pretty safe.
          I'd say that one should be very, very careful here.

          The US SAFE WEB Act expressly confirms: 1) the FTC's authority to redress harm in the United States caused by foreign wrongdoers and harm abroad caused by U.S. wrongdoers; and 2) the availability in cross-border cases of all remedies available to the FTC, including restitution.

          So if you're doing something illegal and you're doing it to people in the US, the FTC can still get involved.
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          • Profile picture of the author James Campbell
            Originally Posted by Steven Carl Kelly View Post

            I'd say that one should be very, very careful here.

            The US SAFE WEB Act expressly confirms: 1) the FTC's authority to redress harm in the United States caused by foreign wrongdoers and harm abroad caused by U.S. wrongdoers; and 2) the availability in cross-border cases of all remedies available to the FTC, including restitution.

            So if you're doing something illegal and you're doing it to people in the US, the FTC can still get involved.
            Here is the thing.

            If my payment processor, webhost, incorporation, etc... are all outside the US. The FTC couldn't touch me as they have no authority in another country.

            However, if I travel to the US, then they may try to nab me like they did some of the online gambling big dogs.

            If I sell a digital copy of something that would be considered illegal say in, china, there is nothing that the chinese govt. could do about it if everything I have is outside of china.

            Doing something illegal according to their "advertising standards" is something very different than say, selling firearms, drugs, etc.... Which would be very easy for them to get help from the Cnd govt. However, for advertising standards, getting me extradited for that would be one hell of a long shot.

            Selling to a country doesn't mean you are doing business in the country, the internet has made it a VERY murky area.

            I'm safe until the Canadian govt. does/does not implement similar rules.

            Personally, at this time I have nothing to worry about because I'm not in violation to begin with.

            James
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        • Profile picture of the author Zach Booker
          Originally Posted by James Campbell View Post

          Generally I would say no.

          Check with your host though because it being hosted in the US could raise an issue.

          Being personally prosecuted by the FTC if you are not a US Citizen, you do not reside in the US and your business is not incorporated in the US, odds are you are pretty safe.

          Me being Canadian and everything being Canadian, I really don't care what the FTC has to say.

          James
          For now - you're correct. (Although it's a little iffy.)

          But I just read in the Globe and Mail the other day that Canada is adopting the same "policy" as what the FTC has just done.

          I'm not sure what organization will enforce this.

          But Canada is - as usual - right behind.

          Write to your local Representative and let him or her know your opinion on this.

          Zach
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  • Profile picture of the author Gail Sober
    How does these FTC changes affect the non-US residents?
    It gives you a competitive edge over U.S. citizens, like with most of their internet based regulations.
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  • Profile picture of the author Steven Carl Kelly
    I'm not sure why a "loophole" is necessary.
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    • Profile picture of the author Aaron Moser
      Originally Posted by Steven Carl Kelly View Post

      I'm not sure why a "loophole" is necessary.
      It's just a play on words... Didn't mean it literally. But I do think if affiliates used this strategy for creating reviews they would be safe from any FTC regulation because how could they pin anything on you if you're just relaying what someone else said?
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      • Profile picture of the author LB
        Originally Posted by Aaron Moser View Post

        It's just a play on words... Didn't mean it literally. But I do think if affiliates used this strategy for creating reviews they would be safe from any FTC regulation because how could they pin anything on you if you're just relaying what someone else said?

        Under the new regulations ANYTHING on your website that could be conveyed as applying to the "average" consumer requires you to disclose average results. It doesn't matter the source.

        For example, if you "relay" that someone said they liked the product and they made $500 dollars with it the FTC claims that is misleading to the "average" consumer who will also think they can make $500. You can no longer just say "results not typical" but have to actually post actual results of the average user and under what circumstances they were collected via scientific study, etc.

        It's a travesty.
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        • Profile picture of the author misterwrecker
          Originally Posted by LB View Post

          Under the new regulations ANYTHING on your website that could be conveyed as applying to the "average" consumer requires you to disclose average results. It doesn't matter the source.

          For example, if you "relay" that someone said they liked the product and they made $500 dollars with it the FTC claims that is misleading to the "average" consumer who will also think they can make $500. You can no longer just say "results not typical" but have to actually post actual results of the average user and under what circumstances they were collected via scientific study, etc.

          It's a travesty.


          What I don't understand is how are you going to possibly know what the average user is going to do. All your customers are not going to report back to you and tell you what they did.
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          • Profile picture of the author Fernando Veloso
            Originally Posted by misterwrecker View Post

            What I don't understand is how are you going to possibly know what the average user is going to do. All your customers are not going to report back to you and tell you what they did.
            That's why this is all a big problem.

            What about people that sell t-shirts online? Are they going to be stopped to say "buy it, it's sooooo cool!!!." Is the FTC going to ask them "prove it it's cool"?

            Damn stupid world.
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          • Profile picture of the author Steven Carl Kelly
            Originally Posted by misterwrecker View Post

            What I don't understand is how are you going to possibly know what the average user is going to do. All your customers are not going to report back to you and tell you what they did.
            Average results statements are NOT always necessary. I refer you to the FTC document and their examples for clarification.
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        • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
          Originally Posted by LB View Post

          For example, if you "relay" that someone said they liked the product and they made $500 dollars with it the FTC claims that is misleading to the "average" consumer who will also think they can make $500. You can no longer just say "results not typical" but have to actually post actual results of the average user and under what circumstances they were collected via scientific study, etc.
          The average user of this product will make no money at all. Based on informal surveys, the average user is likely to skim this product, do nothing much with it, and begin looking for another product, promising easier results, and purchase it, beginning the cycle anew.

          The average user who does put this product into use will also make no money at all because they will make only a half-hearted attempt at following any of the instructions contained in this product.

          Statistics are unavailable for the average user who faithfully puts this product into action and follows the instructions to the letter, because no one beyond the product creator, whose experiences are not considered valid by the FTC, has done so.

          Before purchasing this product, ask yourself this question: Do you intend to be an average user? Or, do you plan to be an extraordinary user? The choice is yours.


          Disclaimer: No guarantees are expressed or implied that such a statement would pass muster.
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  • Profile picture of the author Steven Carl Kelly
    I think too many people are severely overreacting to this whole thing. Frankly, as marketers, Google's Sidewiki poses more of a threat to us than the FTC.

    Read the document. The entire document. Pay very close attention to the examples and therein lies the information you need to properly provide the marketing you desire and to ensure compliance with the FTC guidelines.

    It isn't as sinister as everyone makes it out to be, and in fact I think this new set of guides is great for those of us who are legitimate online marketers who take their business seriously and don't want to deceive our potential customers.
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    • Profile picture of the author Zach Booker
      Originally Posted by Steven Carl Kelly View Post

      I think too many people are severely overreacting to this whole thing. Frankly, as marketers, Google's Sidewiki poses more of a threat to us than the FTC.
      Exactly.

      The FTC is nothing to mess with - obviously.

      But let's say I have 100 sites out there and 1000 other people on this forum - which isn't a stretch - have the same amount.

      Do you really think the FTC is going to go through 100,000 sites looking for violations? And of course if they do stumble upon a site of mine that does their gonna have a hell of a time figuring out who owns it.

      I'm not a lawyer - nor do I pretend to be. But here's what the FTC will probably do.

      Go over to Alexa and see 'what's hot' they'll stumble upon a few flogs that have done 6 or 7 figure media buys and went from 0-100,000 visits a day.

      They'll spot a problem and 'warn' them and then a few weeks later go back to see if changes were made.

      I think the biggest problem - as a few people have already said - is the simple lack of correct information out there.

      The FTC doesn't even know what their doing yet: FTC Responds to Blogger Fears: "That $11,000 Fine Is Not True" | Slipstream | Fast Company

      Zach
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  • Profile picture of the author Gail Sober
    For example, if you "relay" that someone said they liked the product and they made $500 dollars with it the FTC claims that is misleading to the "average" consumer who will also think they can make $500. You can no longer just say "results not typical" but have to actually post actual results of the average user and under what circumstances they were collected via scientific study, etc.
    I wonder if re-wording my disclaimers to something like.

    =======================

    These results are NOT typcial. The average user will make ZERO dollars, Zip, Nadda, NOTHING!!!

    Why??

    It could be any number of reasons.

    Maybe the people that did so well just got lucky.

    Maybe the people that make ZERO (the average user), don't put any effort into it. Maybe they never even opened and read the materials.

    Why, if two pizza places opened on opposites corners of an intersection will one fail miserably while the other thrives?

    I really can't honestly answer that question but I CAN honestly GUARANTEE you a FULL REFUND if you aren't completely satisfied (as in 110% satisfied!!) but PLEASE at least open the materials and make an equally HONEST effort not to be the average user as I'd love to add your testimonial to my page with the other achievers and go-getters!!
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Faber
    Some people are completely missing the implications the FTC ruling has for affiliate marketing. The FTC places the liability for any real or perceived violations on both the affiliate and the owner or marketer of the product. This means many individuals and companies will simply choose not to use affiliate programs, rather than incur the possible wrath of the FTC. Those that do will likely carefully vett their affiliates. The companies that currently have affiliate marketing programs could choose to eliminate all but their most successful and closely associated affiliates. It will be up to their legal departments.

    Since the language is purposely ambiguous, no one can say with any certainty exactly who will be in violation or not. Many people will choose to simply close their blogs and sites, rather than be faced with the prospect of an $11,000 (per occurrence)violation. If you have blogs with thousands of posts built up over 2 or 3 years, going back through all of them to find the affiliate links in them could prove to be a daunting task. Imagine you have only 25 or 30 affiliate links in a blog with 1,000 posts of high quality content. It would be easy to miss a few, especially if the posts are older.

    What if you are not endorsing a particular product or service, merely providing an affiliate link that leads to a company that provides a product or service (possibly out of thousands of other products or services that they provide)? Are you still required to provide a disclaimer, even though you are not endorsing a particular product.

    What if you are posting an informational affiliate link that leads to the company's site, but not to a particular product or service page?

    There are so many questions that remain to be answered, I fear that like with so many other heavy handed government mandates, it will be primarily the lawyers who make the money.
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    • Profile picture of the author Steven Carl Kelly
      Originally Posted by opportunitiesaplenty View Post

      Some people are completely missing the implications the FTC ruling has for affiliate marketing. The FTC places the liability for any real or perceived violations on both the affiliate and the owner or marketer of the product.
      Can you point this out to me in the FTC guide? I'd like to look into it a little further, and despite reading the entire document several times, I can't put my finger on this issue.
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  • Profile picture of the author winebuddy
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  • Profile picture of the author nimcus38318
    So, SCK, Do you ever feel like you're talking out loud, but no one is hearing you?? I think your comment about going and actually READING the document is correct, I just hope a few more people listen to that sage advice.
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  • Profile picture of the author pcpupil
    @ Steven Carl,I think that [opportunitiesapplenty]is talkin about this section.
    Start at paragraph in middle of page that starts with [New Example 5],on page 15.
    Then read to end on top of page 16.
    Ive been right behind you on all these threads as ive downloaded the FTC PDF and read it twice.In this instance the poster didnt read the whole section.I think.
    It does say this but there are circumstances that lead up to this that arnt in the response.
    Again,someone is posting with out all the facts or reading the document.
    Im not the smartest book in the library but i can distinquishe whats being said,and it isnt that hard.Theres also examples for almost or more than half of the document.
    They[FTC]dont want to fry everyone.Only the serious offenders who deliberatly lie and cheat there way to success by taking advantage of the american people.
    Heres an example that we all know of.And its in the PDF,as not what to do.
    The TV commercial.

    The miracle Wonder Roast Bag.Cooks a chicken in 15 minutes!The best,jucesiest,tastiest chicken you ever ate!

    Then they put in a chicken in one oven,then turn around and pull the done one out of another oven and say,and here it is done through the technology of elapsed time,blah,blah,blah.

    They cant do this anymore.Oven temps vary,chickens weight is different.Where was the rack position?Whats the cubic inches of the oven?what was the altitude?
    This is what there going after.
    And the bloggers and affiliates that say things like[Lose 7 inches of belly fat in 7 days].
    Sure it sells,buts basiclly a lie except for 1 rare case.
    Us warriors need to lead the way,read the PDF,become compliant,and show how its done.
    Matt
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  • Profile picture of the author tessmac9708
    I have the solution to all this. Will work in any country......




    Attachment 2825


    ..........Simples!
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  • Profile picture of the author nimcus38318
    Tessmac...what a riot. I'm going to post one of those on each of my sites. That way, no one will know who to go after and the FTC will surely be stuck watching Marx brothers movies to see if they can come up with a positive identification.

    Thanks for the laugh.
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  • Profile picture of the author jazbo
    The bottom line is that unless you are a big fish and get spotted by the ripples you make in the water then you will be fine. Just don't make ludicrous claims.
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