FTC To Revise Dot Com Disclosure Guide - Comment Deadline August 10, 2011

The Federal Trade Commission will be revising the "Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising," which advises businesses how federal advertising law applies to marketing and sales on the Internet.

The Dot Com Disclosures Guide, initially published in 2000, has provided concrete guidance to marketers and attorneys with respect to placement of disclosures and proper use of hyperlinks. The Guide emphasizes that the same consumer protection laws apply to marketers whether they operate online or not and illustrates how online marketers should provide clear and conspicuous disclosures of information that consumers need to make informed online purchasing decisions. It also discusses how the traditional factors used to evaluate whether disclosures are likely to be clear and conspicuous apply in the context of online advertising.

Now, the FTC seeks to update the Guide to reflect changes in the online world and the mobile space. According to the FTC, since the FTC staff published Dot Com Disclosures, 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. 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.

FTC staff is specifically seeking answers to the following questions:

  1. What issues have been raised by online technologies or Internet activities or features that have emerged since the business guide was issued (e.g., mobile marketing, including screen size) that should be addressed in a revised guidance document?
  2. What issues raised by new technologies or Internet activities or features on the horizon should be addressed in a revised business guide?
  3. What issues raised by new laws or regulations should be addressed in a revised guidance document?
  4. What research or other information regarding the online marketplace, online advertising techniques, or consumer online behavior should the staff consider in revising "Dot Com Disclosures"?
  5. What research or other information regarding the effectiveness of disclosures - and, in particular, online disclosures - should the staff consider in revising "Dot Com Disclosures"?
  6. What specific types of online disclosures, if any, raise unique issues that should be considered separately from general disclosure requirements?
  7. What guidance in the original "Dot Com Disclosures" document is outdated or unnecessary?
  8. What guidance in "Dot Com Disclosures" should be clarified, expanded, strengthened, or limited?
  9. What issues relating to disclosures have arisen from such multi-party selling arrangements in Internet commerce as (1) established online sellers providing a platform for other firms to market and sell their products online, (2) website operators being compensated for referring consumers to other Internet sites that offer products and services, and (3) other affiliate marketing arrangements?
  10. What additional issues or principles relating to online advertising should be addressed in the business guidance document?
  11. What other changes, if any, should be made to "Dot Com Disclosures"?

The deadline for comments has been extended to August 10, 2011. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form.

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