The FTC disclosure guidelines: An in-depth exploration of what affiliates and merchants need to know
Confused about how the FTC's disclosure guidelines affect affiliate marketers and merchants? Columnist Rae Hoffman gives you a rundown of what the rules mean for you.
The Federal Trade Commission disclosure laws are increasingly becoming a point of frustration and confusion for affiliates, bloggers and merchants across the United States.
Back in 2009, the FTC started releasing guidelines governing the use of endorsements and testimonials online. The goal of the law was to force disclosure of material connections between advertisers and endorsers, allowing consumers to know when a blogger, affiliate or celebrity stood to gain something from recommending a product to their audience.
As new media for disseminating content have developed, and as the FTC has gained an increased understanding of various styles of promotional methods and compensated content online, the guidelines have been updated and expanded multiple times — most notably with the release of its “Dot Com Disclosures” guidelines in 2013 and a comprehensive update of its “What People Are Asking” page in 2015.
While the guidelines are increasingly expanding when it comes to endorsements, reviews, sponsored posts, sensational claims and influencer campaigns — complete with multiple examples — the FTC documents only contain a few paragraphs covering affiliate marketing specifically. The lack of direct examples for affiliate marketing has left many affiliates and merchants to navigate what constitutes FTC disclosure compliance by pulling together bits and pieces of disclosure advice aimed at other types of online business models.
While the FTC disclosure laws specifically for affiliates are sparse in nature, the spirit of the FTC disclosure guidelines is clear: If you stand to make money or receive a benefit in any way by recommending or endorsing a product or service, you’re required to disclose that fact.
The requirement for disclosure is not affected by whether or not you would be endorsing or promoting the product even if you weren’t being compensated. The level of sincerity in your promotion of affiliate links doesn’t matter. If you recommend or endorse something using an affiliate link, it must be disclosed. Period.
The murky part is how to disclose that relationship in a way that satisfies the FTC requirements.
Help with understanding how the FTC disclosure laws affect affiliates
While I understand a lot of the FTC disclosure guidelines and feel comfortable making calls in many situations based on fully comprehending the general spirit of the law, I had a long list of specific scenarios I wanted more knowledgeable clarification on.
And consulting with a lawyer to gain a clearer understanding would require finding someone with an in-depth understanding of how affiliate marketing works. If a lawyer doesn’t understand my business model, it would be hard for him or her to advise on how the disclosure laws apply to it.
Enter Tricia Meyer. Meyer is an award-winning career affiliate who also happens to be an active lawyer in the state of Indiana. And over the last few years, she has been helping her fellow affiliates make sense of the FTC disclosure laws surrounding affiliate marketing.
The information in this article is — in part — the result of an extremely long and detailed email conversation Meyer and I had on the topic of affiliate disclosure. I wanted to fact-check my personal understanding of the information and get some informed input on things left open to interpretation.
Disclaimer: The below is not intended to be legal advice, and you should not take it as such.
Meyer noted: “The legalities of giving legal advice are complex. I’m an affiliate marketer who happens to be a lawyer, which helps me better explain what the FTC is saying and doing. My interpretations are not legal advice but rather a starting point for your own decision-making.”
The goal of this article is to help affiliates and merchants better understand how FTC disclosure laws apply to affiliate marketing.
What we know for sure
The FTC says that “the guiding principle is that it has to be clear and conspicuous.” If you’re trying to figure out how to add disclosure within your content without making the disclosure obvious, you’re increasing your risk that your disclosure will fail to be in compliance with the FTC guidelines.
There is no way to disclose inconspicuously and comply with the FTC guidelines.
I’d recommend that every blogger, affiliate and merchant read the FTC’s “Dot Com Disclosures” guidelines and “What People Are Asking” documentation in full. Any quotes attributed to the FTC below are from those documents, unless otherwise specified.
And while the FTC disclosure guidelines are often vague when it comes to affiliate marketing, there are several things regarding what constitutes acceptable disclosure for affiliates that are clear when reviewing the documentation as a whole, even when the information is not directly aimed at affiliates.
1. General disclosure links in site navigations are not enough. A simple link with the anchor text disclosure (or something similar) located in the header, sidebar or footer navigation of your site to a disclosure page is not enough to satisfy FTC disclosure requirements.
2. The disclosure must appear before links. The disclosure must always appear before the first instance of affiliate link, above the fold, without needing to scroll or look past the affiliate link to see it. It should be as close as possible to the first place a user will look within the content when they arrive. The FTC has advised that disclosures should go as close to the beginning of the content as possible. Disclosures at the end of posts or the end of tweets or somewhere else that’s less than obvious do not meet the disclosure requirements.
The disclosure must always appear before the first instance of affiliate link, above the fold, without needing to scroll or look past the affiliate link to see it. It should be as close as possible to the first place a user will look within the content when they arrive. The FTC has advised that disclosures should go as close to the beginning of the content as possible. Disclosures at the end of posts or the end of tweets or somewhere else that’s less than obvious do not meet the disclosure requirements.
This requirement also applies to all device types. For example, if you put your disclosure message in a widget that appears above all of your posts on the site when viewed on a desktop, it meets disclosure requirements. However, if that widget moves under the content when viewed on a mobile device, then you’re not in compliance with the FTC guidelines. Disclosure requirements must be met when rendered on all device types.
Of course, it’s not realistic to expect webmasters to test and ensure how their website renders on every device or platform ever made that can access the internet. Androids, iPhones and iPads,and so on are obvious. But you’ll need to ensure it conforms to the disclosure guidelines for any significant minority as well.
If a very insignificant portion of your audience is accessing your website via a particular outdated technology, that would likely not be considered a significant minority. The second you start moving into higher single-digit percentages of users who are accessing your website with a specific technology — outdated or not — you’ll likely need to ensure FTC disclosure requirements are met when your site is viewed through that device.
You can find more information on the technologies being used to access your website through Google Analytics by viewing the Technology and Mobile reports for your website.
3. Your disclosure must be noticeable: Your disclosure cannot be styled to be less noticeable than your regular content; this includes using tiny fonts, pale font colors and so on. Your disclosure must be clearly noticeable to your audience. If you’re purposely trying to make it less noticeable, you’re not compliant with FTC guidelines — even if all other aspects of your disclosure conform to the rules.
4. Your disclosure must be understood by “a significant minority” of consumers: The FTC requires that disclosure messages “should use clear language and syntax and avoid legalese or technical jargon.” The FTC is not looking for whether or not the majority of your audience will understand your disclosure message. It’s seeking to ensure that a “significant minority” is not confused by it.
5. Notations like (affiliate) and #affiliate do not meet the requirements: Adding things like (affiliate), (affiliate link) or #affiliate before an affiliate link is not enough to satisfy disclosure requirements, since many people will not understand what the designation means. It’s one of the few concrete examples the FTC has now cited as not meeting disclosure requirements for affiliates.
6. The disclosure must clearly convey the relationship without requiring a click: The FTC does not expect you to put a three-paragraph disclosure at the top of all your content. However, just having a link at the top of a post that says, “Please see my disclosure before reading this post,” with the word “disclosure” linked to your disclosure page does not meet FTC disclosure requirements. It’s not clear to users what is being disclosed or why it might be important for them to click through to the disclosure policy.
Disclosures like, “I may receive a commission if you purchase something mentioned in this post. See more details here,” with the word here linked to your disclosure page makes what you’re disclosing clear, while also allowing a user to click through to get more detailed information.
A disclosure at the top of the post that reads, “Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, please click here for our full disclosure policy” is debatable as far as meeting FTC requirements. If a significant minority of your visitors will not understand what an affiliate link is, then it doesn’t comply. Your audience would be the determining factor.
On my Sugarrae blog, I can reasonably expect that most people interested in my content understand what an affiliate link is, since my blog specifically covers affiliate and online marketing. Still, I’d opt to use more clearly understood verbiage to ensure I was in compliance
7. The medium does not change the requirement to disclose: Disclosure requirements apply to websites, social media updates, newsletters, guides, ebooks, online courses, podcasts, webinars, videos, recipes and so on.
When it comes to content like videos, podcasts and webinars, the FTC says putting a disclosure in the description isn’t enough. Instead, they suggest you make the disclosure clearly and conspicuously within the video or audio content itself — and positioning matters.
Disclosures made at the end of video or audio content do not meet the FTC disclosure guidelines. A disclosure at the start of the video, webinar or podcast — or before the merchant, product or service are mentioned within it — is your best bet for meeting disclosure requirements.
Unfortunately, the FTC does not group all of the advice aimed at video and audio content into one section in its guidelines. I’d suggest you visit its “What People are Asking” resource and do a Control+F on Windows or a Command+F on Mac for the word “video” to see all of the questions and answers relating to requirements for video disclosures.
If you’re being paid by a company to create a recipe using a particular ingredient, that falls under the umbrella of recommendations and endorsements and must be disclosed.
When using social media to promote a product, service or affiliate link, the disclosure must appear at the beginning of the ad. Putting it at the end does not meet FTC disclosure requirements.
8. Character limits do not change the obligation to disclose: Being afforded limited space in a medium also does not alter the disclosure requirements.
For social media content, again, the disclosure has to be placed at the beginning of your status update. Meyer noted that it should only be abbreviated in nature if space is limited.
Any reasonable internet user should clearly understand any abbreviations you use. The FTC has cited #spons as likely not meeting disclosure requirements, while #ad likely would. The FTC has specifically mentioned the 140-character limit of tweets saying, “Starting a tweet with “Ad:” or “#ad” — which takes only three characters — would likely be effective.”
1. Compensation is not limited to cash: Compensation can come in forms other than direct payments or affiliate commissions. If you were given something for free or at a discount, it counts as compensation. Compensation includes products, services or experiences (like a hotel stay). If you received — or could receive — any form of compensation relating to the product you’re endorsing or recommending, it has to be disclosed.
One interesting note on compensation is that the FTC apparently does not consider early access to a product as compensation: “Getting early access [to a product] doesn’t mean that you got paid.”
One might argue that receiving early access in the above scenario benefits the person in the form of having an advantage of semi-exclusive content that helps them build their audience. But for now, it appears early access or sneak previews of products are not considered compensation if you didn’t get to keep the item and do not require disclosure.
Regarding products you received to evaluate for free but subsequently returned, the FTC implies that the requirement to disclose could be debatable, depending on the value of the product and how long you were allowed to use it. The FTC guidelines state:
[blockquote]For example, if you get free use of a car for a month, we recommend a disclosure even though you have to return it. But even for less valuable products, it’s best to be open and transparent with your readers.[/blockquote]
2. Disclosure is required even if the commentary surrounding the item is negative: Whether or not your review or comments on a merchant, product or service are positive, neutral or negative, if you’re linking to them with an affiliate link — or were otherwise compensated for the review or mention — you still have to disclose it.
3. Disclosure is required even if the product you’re recommending is free: It doesn’t matter if the product or service you’re promoting is free or not; if you stand to make money from promoting it, you must disclose. For example: If the promotion of that free resource sets an affiliate cookie that could result in your receiving a commission — whether it’s now or if the consumer buys anything in the future — you must disclose that to comply with FTC disclosure laws.
4. The mere mention of a product or service could be considered an endorsement: This one surprised me a bit. While the FTC disclosure guidelines aim to ensure disclosures are made surrounding compensated recommendations and endorsements, the FTC guidelines imply that merely mentioning a product could be viewed as an endorsement by your audience.
For example: Let’s say you use a specific blender and that any time you write a recipe post that calls for a blender, you link to that blender with an affiliate link. You don’t make any additional commentary about the blender, and you don’t verbally recommend the blender. You only link the word blender to your affiliate link for it in your post. It would appear the FTC could put that under the umbrella of an endorsement:
[blockquote]If your audience thinks that what you say or otherwise communicate about a product reflects your opinions or beliefs about the product, and you have a relationship with the company marketing the product, it’s an endorsement subject to [FTC disclosures].[/blockquote]
In the above example, it’s probably reasonable for your audience to assume that you’re linking to that particular blender because you prefer it or use it, which results in an unspoken endorsement.
If you’re using an affiliate link to link to anything that is not displayed as an obvious advertisement, it’s best to disclose the potential you have to earn an affiliate commission for doing so — even if you’re not recommending or endorsing the product outright.
5. Standard advertisements do not fall under FTC disclosure requirements: Disclosure does not need to be made surrounding obvious advertisements like banner ads, graphical sidebar ads, AdSense and so on. Much as a reasonable consumer realizes commercials are paid advertisements, most reasonable consumers understand that banner ads are paid advertisements as well.
How this relates to different styles of affiliate websites
Various types of sites monetize their content through the use of affiliate links. We tend to think of these FTC disclosure guidelines in their relation to influencer marketing, sponsored posts and endorsements and recommendations of products or services using affiliate links by a particular individual (the author of the content).
So what happens when the method being used to promote an affiliate program isn’t presented in that black-and-white way?
Master affiliate networks:
My definition of a master affiliate network is any service that inserts affiliate links into your content for you automatically. Meyer noted that the FTC has yet to address this style of affiliate link promotion, adding, “Because it is a gray area, the best bet is to adhere to the spirit of the guidelines, which is to be honest and not mislead your readers.”
Based on the spirit of the guidelines, I’d think implementation of these services require disclosure that conforms to the standard FTC disclosure guidelines. Use of master affiliate networks doesn’t change that your content contains affiliate links that reasonable consumers could see as an endorsement. It only changes the method by which they end up in your content.
If you’re using one of these services, you’d be wise to implement a blanket disclosure at the top of every single page on your website where these links might appear.
Storefronts made with affiliate data feeds:
An affiliate site that looks like a store created from an affiliate data feed is a common promotional tactic for affiliate links. These websites look, feel and present like a store. In theory, a reasonable consumer likely expects that you’re making money from the purchase of any products listed in your store. Meyer added:
[blockquote]The underlying principle [of the disclosure guidelines] is whether someone’s decision to make the purchase would be impacted if they knew that there was a connection between the publisher and the advertiser. In a data-feed-driven store with no reviews or extra commentary on the products, that would likely not be the case.[/blockquote]
If you’re adding editorial commentary or reviews of the products listed in your data feed store, you’d probably need to add a disclosure if the content could be seen as potentially influencing the consumer.
When it comes to data feed storefronts, I asked Meyer whether or not reviews generated by users or rewriting product descriptions to ensure you had unique content fell under this umbrella. Meyer stated, “Customer reviews would not count if they are unincentived. You can rewrite product descriptions, but the ‘endorsement’ of a particular product over another is what triggers the need for disclosure.”
This is where we start to get into a serious gray area, as there are no specific guidelines aimed towards these types of websites. Meyer’s interpretation is that coupon-themed sites are “not a personal endorsement, and the site is clearly a commercial site.”
“There’s no confusion that a coupon-specific website is a company trying to make money, even if consumers don’t know how that money is being made. This is part of the reason that the guidelines are somewhat ambiguous. It’s hard to draw a line in the sand. Instead, the FTC allows for the whole of the circumstances to be taken into consideration.”
Based on my interpretation of the FTC guidelines, I would tend to agree. Consumers do not go to these websites to get advice on purchases, but rather to find coupons for their purchases.
A coupon-themed website is not endorsing any specific companies, but instead is listing (or aiming to list) coupons for merchants where they can discern coupons are available. While it might be argued that one merchant having a coupon that is better than another may influence a purchasing decision, the decision is not being influenced by the coupon site itself, but rather the coupons merchants themselves make available.
Where this gets trickier is when a site lists coupons, but it’s not specifically a coupon-themed site. If you’re listing a coupon for a product or service on a website without a specific coupon theme, you’re likely falling under the umbrella of recommendations or endorsements — especially if you add commentary on why you like the product or service. In that case, you’d need to add a disclosure to comply with the FTC guidelines.
I’ve run multiple comparison sites over the years. While the FTC does not address these types of sites specifically, based on the spirit of the guidelines, there is no doubt in my mind that comparison websites are obligated to disclosure under the spirit of FTC guidelines.
Comparison sites are designed to help consumers make a decision between various products, services and merchants. They undoubtedly have the potential to influence a purchasing decision. And if your content has the potential to affect a purchasing decision — and you stand to make money from a purchasing decision you influence — you must disclose that fact.
Additionally, if a comparison website is only featuring products or services that you stand to gain financially from, that’s something that a reasonable consumer would want to know.
There are two main styles of review websites: those that contain editorial reviews and those composed solely of user-generated reviews.
Once again, despite a lack of this type of website being specifically addressed by the FTC, I have no personal doubt that review sites containing editorial reviews fall under the umbrella of influencing a purchasing decision, and as such, should be disclosing their potential for financial gain to their audience.
When it comes to comparison and editorial review style websites, I think you’d be hard-pressed to convince a judge you didn’t realize those kinds of websites contain some influence over a purchaser’s decision. And the requirement to disclose compensation or potential compensation on anything that might affect a purchaser’s decision is clearly expressed in the FTC disclosure guidelines.
But things get much more uncertain when you look at sites where reviews and rating scores are populated and calculated based solely on uncompensated user-generated reviews. One could argue that since the website itself isn’t generating the influence, they don’t fall under the FTC requirement to disclose.
However, I spoke with Michael Ostheimer, a staff attorney in the Division of Advertising Processes for the FTC, by phone. He said that if a user-generated review site was linking to a particular merchant to purchase the product or services from, it might fall under the umbrella of an endorsement, because the site could be viewed as endorsing or recommending that merchant for the purchase — even if the endorsement for the product or service itself wasn’t directly being influenced by the website.
And once something falls under the umbrella of a recommendation or endorsement, disclosure would be required.
Applying the KISS method to affiliate disclosure
KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid and comes from a design principle coined by the US Navy in 1960. Its premise is to keep things simple and not overcomplicate them.
The easiest way to make sure you’re meeting FTC disclosure requirements as an affiliate is to ensure that you have a noticeable and clear disclosure listed above the content on all pages of your site telling consumers you might receive a commission if they click on any of the links on your site and make a purchase after doing so. And the wording for your disclosure should be clear enough that even your grandmother would understand it.
The moment you begin doing things to make the disclosure less noticeable, you’re increasing the risk that your disclosure will not comply with the FTC guidelines.
If you’re worried that your disclosure may affect the weight your visitors give your recommendations, then it’s a safe bet that your content falls under the need for disclosure.
Conspicuous disclosure is now a required component of being an affiliate marketer. Period.
The FTC is actively going after disclosure violations
The FTC recently announced that it had reached a settlement with Warner Brothers over a paid influencer marketing campaign in 2014 promoting Warner Brothers’ video game, “Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.” Warner Brothers hired an agency that paid influential vloggers to create videos around the game, specifically requiring them to include a call to action within the video and refrain from mentioning anything negative about the game.
An interesting component of this particular case is that it appears all of the vloggers did include a disclosure, but one that required a click on the More tab underneath the video description snippet for users to see it. So Warner Brothers was cited — in part — for the disclosure not being prominent enough versus it being altogether absent.
Unlike Lunada Biomedical (which agreed to a $40 million settlement for failure to disclose paying bloggers to promote their product) and Legacy Learning Systems (which was slapped with a $250,000 fine in 2011 for failing to ensure disclosure in affiliates’ reviews of its products), Warner Brothers appears to be walking away without any financial damage. Instead, it had to promise to require that influencers clearly disclose their compensation within the video itself.
The FTC also laid out clear guidelines in the settlement regarding future Warner Brothers campaigns that “include educating influencers regarding sponsorship disclosures, monitoring sponsored influencer videos for compliance, and, under certain circumstances, terminating or withholding payment from influencers or ad agencies for non-compliance.”
The Warner Brothers settlement comes on the heels of a settlement between the FTC and Lord & Taylor this past March. The FTC charged that Lord & Taylor failed to disclose an Instagram influencer marketing campaign as a paid promotion.
The FTC cited in the settlement that “Lord & Taylor gave 50 select fashion influencers a free Paisley Asymmetrical Dress and paid them between $1,000 and $4,000 each to post a photo of themselves wearing it on Instagram or another social media site [without requiring disclosure that it was a paid campaign].” Like Warner Brothers, Lord & Taylor walked away with a slap on the wrist and a warning not to do it again.
Despite the current FTC focus on merchants, affiliates could still come under fire
The FTC makes no secret that it’s more likely to go after the merchant than an individual affiliate:
[blockquote]If law enforcement becomes necessary, our focus usually will be on advertisers or their ad agencies and public relations firms. Action against an individual endorser, however, might be appropriate in certain circumstances.[/blockquote]
While the FTC’s lawsuits have so far been limited to being directed at merchants, I suspect that’s due to the audience reach of a merchant being larger, so their ability to mislead consumers is much more significant when aggregated under their entire campaign umbrella than the reach of their individual affiliates.
That said, I suspect we’ll eventually see the FTC go after an affiliate — if for no other reason than to set an example. Keep in mind that multiple larger companies use affiliate marketing as a monetization method — particularly in the case of review and comparison style sites. And some individual affiliates are pulling in millions from their promotions, despite being in an extreme minority. Not every affiliate is a small fry.
And as more and more affiliates learn of disclosure laws and begin having to adhere to them as a result, resentment brews for those affiliates that don’t comply with the law — whether they are uninformed or simply disregarding it. I think that will eventually lead to increased reporting to the FTC of affiliates in violation of the guidelines — and it’s only logical under those circumstances that the FTC will eventually go after one.
The risks to an affiliate for not disclosing aren’t limited to being sued by the FTC. As more and more merchants become aware of disclosure laws and add language to their affiliate agreements requiring disclosure from their affiliates, failing to disclose could get you removed from a program and potentially void any commissions owed.
Additionally, depending on the wording of the merchant’s terms of service agreement, merchants might be able to hold an affiliate liable if the affiliate’s violation of that agreement caused the merchant to be sued.
What does this mean for merchants and affiliate managers?
It’s important to reiterate that the FTC — for now — seems to be focusing on the merchants when it comes to disclosure violations. Merchants are ultimately responsible for ensuring their affiliates are following disclosure laws, even if their affiliate program is being managed by an outside firm.
Additionally, the FTC has put merchants on notice that they’re required “to have reasonable programs in place to train and monitor members of their network.“
Though the FTC has failed to outline what reasonable programs entail, Meyer said, “We can glean a little bit of information from the Legacy Learning Systems case. They were ordered to monitor their top-earning affiliates the most and then spot-check a random sample of affiliates.”
In the absence of specific guidance from the FTC, Meyer recommends merchants at least meet that minimum monitoring standard. Additionally, she strongly advised that “including FTC compliance in your affiliate terms of service is a must” for merchants.
While the merchant is ultimately held responsible by the FTC, this doesn’t absolve outside affiliate program management firms from any responsibility. Meyer pointed out that “the merchant is trusting the [affiliate program manager] to run the program following any applicable laws, which would include disclosure compliance.” If the FTC sues a merchant, the merchant could come back on the affiliate management company and sue them for indemnification, depending on the contract between them.
Meyer recommends merchants ensure that following FTC disclosure laws is covered by the contract between them and their representing agency and that it includes an indemnification clause should the merchant be sued by the FTC for disclosure violations.
The good news is that it would appear some affiliate management firms are already actively monitoring the programs they manage for compliance with FTC laws. I ran a small, informal, and in no way statistically significant, survey of about 20 affiliate managers within my business circle; 61 percent of those surveyed were already monitoring their programs for disclosure compliance, while 23 percent said they were not monitoring for compliance and had no plans to.
Several affiliate managers noted in the survey comments that they didn’t monitor for disclosure because the terms of service for their programs shifted legal responsibility to the affiliate — requiring them to follow all applicable regional, state and country laws.
It almost feels like a game of hot potato. However, the FTC has made it clear that the merchants are the ones who are ultimately held responsible for disclosure violations. As a result, merchants would be wise to ensure their affiliate program management companies were actively working to monitor for compliance. As Meyer noted:
[blockquote] A merchant would be remiss to hire an outsourced program manager (OPM) on the basis of their knowledge of the industry and their role in monitoring affiliates and then let them off the hook financially if they (the OPM) do not force FTC compliance. The point of the merchant hiring the OPM is that the merchant doesn’t know the ins and outs of the laws, standards, best practices, etc. of affiliate marketing and are counting on the expertise of the OPM.[/blockquote]
It’s also important to note that the FTC disclosure laws do not only apply to US-based businesses. Meyer explained:
[blockquote] The laws of the US apply to foreign businesses if US citizens are the target of their marketing efforts. For example, the FTC issued a warning to a Chinese app developer regarding COPPA violations. If they have an office in the US, it would be even easier to seek enforcement against them.[/blockquote]
So where do affiliate networks fall in this equation? I’d argue that they aren’t responsible for monitoring or ensuring disclosure compliance. The networks are primarily a SaaS (Software as a service) offering that allows merchants to run affiliate programs. How that program is structured, run and monitored is not something they’re involved in.
However, in the case where networks offer in-house affiliate program management options, they would have the same responsibility as any other affiliate program manager for ensuring disclosure compliance on the programs they’re actively managing.
Staying up to date
The rules to be in compliance with FTC disclosure laws are constantly evolving as they encounter new promotional methods and examples. And ignorance is not an excuse for failing to have your monetization efforts comply. If you’re participating in affiliate programs — as an affiliate, a merchant or a management agency — it’s your responsibility to know the requirements.
How to try and ensure you know of any new information:
- Tricia Meyer keeps her post surrounding how the FTC guidelines affect affiliates updated as new information comes out and writes about news centered around the FTC disclosure laws of interest to affiliates here.
- You can set up a Google Alert for site:ftc.gov disclosure to get notifications when Google finds new content on the FTC website that contains the word “disclosure.”
- You can check the FTC website periodically for updates to their What People Are Asking page and look for new articles in their Marketing and Advertising and Endorsements sections.