In an extension of the “blogger rules” passed last October, designed to cut back on free-product fueled gear reviews on the Web, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on false Web previews of other categories. The FTC settled a suit with PR firm Reverb Communications, which had posted phony positive reviews on iTunes without revealing it was being paid to do so.
The moral of the story? Don’t have your interns or advertising firms post reviews of your products or services online or the FTC may come after you. This can definitely be tempting though. According to Forrester Research, 71 percent of online shoppers now read reviews before buying and different studies conclude referrals are the most important thing when determining who they buy from and what they buy.
According to an article in Inc.: Reverb was the first target of the FTC’s new crackdown on deceptive online advertising. The agency in October introduced new guidelines for Internet endorsements and testimonials. Initially the rules were referred to widely as blogger rules – attempting to stop bloggers from dishing out positive reviews in exchange for free products or money – but the rules apply to anyone writing reviews on websites or promoting products through social media networks such as Facebook or Twitter. (The FTC explained: “While decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the online post by a person connected to the seller, or someone who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product or service, should disclose the material connection the reviewer shares with the seller of the product or service.”)