The Federal Trade Commission has published a comprehensive “working paper” providing a guide to on-line advertisers on how to use disclosures to ensure observance of applicable consumer protection laws.
Topic: e advertising
Who: The Federal Trade Commission
When: May 2000
The Federal Trade Commission has published a comprehensive "working paper" providing a guide to on-line advertisers on how to use disclosures to ensure observance of applicable consumer protection laws. Entitled "DotCom Disclosures",the guide emphasises the applicability of all pertinent federal ad control laws on-line as well as off-line "Clear and conspicuous" disclosures requirements, for instance, can be best observed on-line by placing disclosure in proximity to any qualified claim, showing it prominently, ensuring that other parts of the advertising message do not distract attention from the disclosure, repeating it if the ad message is so long that this is warranted, and ensuring the language of the disclosure is comprehensible to the intended audience. Drilling down into more detail, the paper talks about "proximity" in on-line terms sometimes equating to a clear text prompt as to the physical location of qualifying disclosures as opposed to vague "see below for details" text. Other areas covered include choosing the right label for hyperlinking, displaying disclosures immediately prior to purchase and using email to communicate with customers when this is reasonable and facilitates the provision of information, for instance about delivery delays.
Why this matters:
The Consumers’ Association Webtrader scheme, the Advertising Standards Association’s e advertising scheme, the Alliance for Electronic Business's Trust UK consumer protection hallmark, the Institute of Chartered Accountants' "Web Trust" scheme: yes, e advertising and selling codes are proliferating in the UK, so why make life even more complicated by looking at DotCom disclosures on http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/dotcom/index.html
Because these underline that the US and the FTC are significantly further down the track in these areas and have far greater experience of how difficulties can arise. So although the underlying legal controls have different names and are differently enforced, and there can be no guarantee that following these recommendations will be proof against regulators worldwide, if an e advertiser achieves maximum clarity and disclosure of information by following these guidelines, it should stand it in good stead.