About a year ago, in “Educate Employees about Online Endorsements – the FTC is Watching!” I discussed the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. It appears that at least one online site – Amazon.com – may be taking the FTC’s guidelines about paid online endorsements pretty seriously.
A prospective client called me recently. She was upset because many of the book reviews she had written on Amazon.com – which were paid for by authors – had been removed on at least two occasions.
I asked whether the reviews stated that they were paid for by the authors. She said “No.” I asked whether she was familiar with applicable FTC guidelines concerning paid online endorsements. She again said “No.”
I pointed out that FTC regulations, to protect consumers, require that the reviewer disclose that the review was written for payment. And while I did not know why her reviews were removed, violation of the regulations could be ample reason for removal.
Amazon.com’s Conditions of Use state that “Visitors may post reviews … so long as the content is not illegal ….” Furthermore, “Amazon reserves the right (but not the obligation) to remove or edit such content ….”
I felt badly for the caller. A significant portion of her business was at serious risk. And if she complied with the FTC’s guidelines by explaining that reviews were being paid for, they probably would be removed, anyway.
Bottom line: The Internet provides plenty of ways for dishonest people to to carry out their schemes with anonymity. Accordingly, those of us who want to run legitimate businesses must be prepared to satisfy an ever-increasing demand for honesty and transparency.
Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510-547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.