FTC Considers Update to Online Ad Disclosures

The Federal Trade Commission may update guidelines relating to the content of online advertising, it said today, to reflect changes that have taken place in the market since they were first published more than a decade ago.

The commission’s “Dot Com Disclosures” guide, originally published in 2000, is designed to ensure online ads comply with the same consumer protection laws that apply to traditional media and advertising. For example, the guidance details when and how disclosures must be included in online ads to prevent them from misleading consumers.

According to the commission, however, recent advancements in technology and digital media could mean an update to the 11 year old rules is needed. “The online world has changed dramatically since ‘Dot Com Disclosures’ was first issued. Eleven years ago, mobile marketing was just a vision, there was not an ‘App’ economy, the use of ‘pop-up blockers’ was not widespread, and online social networking was nowhere as sophisticated or extensive as it is today,” it said in an invitation for comment on the matter.

Public comments on the existing guidelines and their future viability are being welcomed by the FTC until July 11.

In related news, a federal district court judge yesterday ordered a deceptive online marketing operation to pay more than $3.7 million as part of a contempt action for violating a 2008 court order, at the request of the FTC. The commission alleged that EDebitPay LLC, Dale Paul Cleveland, and William Richard Wilson, targeted consumers who were unemployed or had poor credit, selling a bogus “$10,000 credit line” that was really an online shopping club membership and a “no cost” prepaid debit card with hidden fees.

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