After a Decade, FTC Announces Plans to Update Online Advertising Guidelines

After a Decade, FTC Announces Plans to Update Online Advertising Guidelines

It’s been 11 years since the Federal Trade Commission issued guidelines for online advertising, which by today’s standards makes them practically ancient. The agency today announced it plans to update its 2000 guidelines, “Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising,” and is seeking public input on a few key questions. The original guidelines stressed that the same consumer protection laws that apply to commercial activities in other media apply online, and that any disclosures required to prevent an advertisement from being misleading must be clear and conspicuous. Now, the FTC is asking what issues have been raised by online technologies since the guidelines were issued that should be addressed in a revised document. “Mobile marketing has become a reality, the ‘App’ economy has emerged, the use of ‘pop-up blockers’ has become widespread, and online social networking has emerged and grown popular,” the FTC stated in the announcement. “In seeking public comment on possible revisions to the guidance document, the staff is interested in the technical and legal issues that marketers, consumer advocates, and others believe should be addressed.” Questions include what information regarding the online marketplace, online advertising techniques, or consumer online behavior the FTC should consider, and what specific types of online disclosures, if any, raise unique issues that should be looked at separately from general disclosure requirements. The FTC also wants to know about multi-party selling arrangements, where established online sellers provide a platform for other firms to market and sell their products, as well as website operators that are compensated for referring consumers to other Internet sites that offer products and services. The FTC will seek public comment for 45 days, beginning today and continuing through July 11.