Bad regulations are OK because they just won't be enforced
The Federal Trade Commission is still trying to define how it will enforce new disclosure guidelines for bloggers who may have received free products from the companies they cover, according to northeast regional director Leonard Gordon.
“If the consumer wouldn’t understand that the endorser, whether it’s a celebrity or a mommy blogger, is being paid…to talk about the product, that’s something that we’re concerned about, because we think consumers are being mislead,” said Mr. Gordon in a panel discussion on Thursday.
He said the blogosphere “went a little crazy with visions of storm troopers taking down suburban houses and seizing the computers of mommy bloggers,” but that the FTC has no plans to enforce the rules so aggressively.
Instead, he said, the agency wants to focus on people who are being paid to make plugs for products in “non-traditional contexts” such as tweeting. In particular, they’ll go after companies that make claims that aren’t true or can’t be substantiated, essentially the same mission of the FTC in holding companies accountable offline.
While the FTC is still deciding how the new blogger guidelines will be enforced, it’s concerned that consumers may not have sharpened the same sense of skepticism for online claims that they’ve developed for sources offline.
But the line for whether or not disclosure is necessary will likely be drawn in cases where consumers have a “reasonable expectation” that the author was not being paid to plug a product. “If the consumer knew that the person who was making that endorsement was being paid, would the consumer view that endorsement differently? I think that’s the bottom that we’re trying to get at,” said Mr. Gordon. . . . .