FTC Gives Ann Taylor A Pass In First 'Blog Disclosure' Investigation

from the disclose-everything dept

We expressed some serious concerns with the somewhat ambiguous FTC disclosure rules directed at blogs and new media that went into effect last year, and we’ve been waiting to see how the FTC enforces those rules. We found it odd that the FTC apparently felt that celebrities could be held to different standards. There have been some questions about different activities — for example, Viacom’s actions in trying to make authorized uploads look as if they were bootlegs certainly appears to run afoul of the rules. And, more recently, there were some concerns over the NY Times’ lack of disclosure concerning its relationship with Apple when reporting on the iPad.

However, back in February, some were wondering if retailer Ann Taylor’s offer of gift cards to bloggers who covered their new line of clothing violated the rules. Apparently, the FTC did take notice, and Michael Scott points us to the news that last month, the FTC decided to give Ann Taylor a one-time pass, though it did express some concerns about the program:

What strikes me as interesting here is that the FTC investigation focuses on the advertiser’s actions, rather than the bloggers’. That is, most of the concerns about the program were about whether the FTC would take action against bloggers. But, here, it was focused on the advertiser and its actions. That does make more sense, but does leave open a questionable loophole: if an advertiser tells a blogger to disclose some information and then the blogger does not do so… is the advertiser still liable? In this case, the FTC even mentions that one of the reasons it’s not taking action is because many (though not all) of the bloggers, who wrote about the event, disclosed the gift cards. But if they had not — even though Ann Taylor had told them to — then is Ann Taylor to blame?

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Companies: ann taylor, ftc

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Comments on “FTC Gives Ann Taylor A Pass In First 'Blog Disclosure' Investigation”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Video Games

I thought this was starting to become common practice in the Video Game business. To fly reviewers to a hotel somewhere (sometimes Hawaii) to get hands on experience with a game. Does this mean that all reviewers that accept trips like that are required to disclose that in their review?

Daniel Tunkelang (profile) says:

Re: Video Games

Regardless of whether the FTC requires it, I’d hope an ethical reviewer would make sure a disclosure. Wouldn’t you? It would be great if advertisers themselves disclosed these practices, but I still think it’s the reviewer’s responsibility to disclose anything that a reader might reasonably interpret as a conflict of interest.

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