FTC Threatens Bloggers With $11k Fine For Not Disclosing Freebies


As if the government doesn’t intrude on our lives enough already, the Federal Trade Commission today announced the addition of new guidelines in the “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” that directly impact those of us in the blogosphere. Under the new guidelines, bloggers — like us here at VGBlogger — who fail to disclose product freebies they receive for review are now subject to a fine of $11,000…per post!

According to the FTC, any product a blogger receives for review is now considered an “endorsement,” and all “material connections” between “advertisers and endorsers” must be disclosed. Testimonial ads and celebrity endorsements are also impacted by this rule.

Here’s a snippet from the new FTC guideline.

“The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.”

The whole thing seems kinda silly to me considering magazines and non-blogs receive free review product and are plastered with paid advertisements, yet I don’t see them getting threatened with fines for not disclosing their freebies and other “material connections.” And I also don’t quite see how the FTC is going to be able to enforce this new policy. Can the government really enforce anything without mucking the system up?

But ultimately it seems harmless enough to me — any good, honest blogger should have no problem disclosing freebies they receive. Here at VGBlogger we receive free review copies from publishers for at least 90% of our reviews and have never hidden such information, nor have any of our reviews been influenced by receiving freebies. I guess from now on, though, we’ll have to toss a line in at the end of every review just to make sure. I ain’t paying no 11k!

Any thoughts, fellow bloggers?

FTC to Bloggers: Disclose Freebies or Face $11,000 Fine [ReadWriteWeb]
FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials [Federal Trade Commission]

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!