As an Internet attorney who conducts website legal audits, here’s an issue that comes up all of the time.
If you believe in a product or service that you’re promoting as an affiliate, can you provide “news” about the product? That’s a question that’s coming back to haunt affiliate marketers.
In April, the FTC filed lawsuits against marketers who claimed to be reporting news about weight loss products that were in fact nothing more than sales pitches containing unverified claims.
According to the FTC, “[m]illions of consumers are being lured to websites that imitate those of reputable news organizations. The “reporters” on these sites supposedly have done independent evaluations of acai berry supplements, and claim that the products cause major weight loss in a short period of time with no diet or exercise. In reality the websites are deceptive advertisements placed by third-party or ‘affiliate’ marketers. The websites are aimed at enticing consumers to buy the featured…weight-loss products. These fake news operations are the subject of a nationwide law enforcement initiative.”
“Almost everything about these sites is fake,” David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The weight-loss results, the so-called investigations, the reporters, the consumer testimonials, and the attempt to portray an objective journalistic endeavor.” – FTC takes aim at deceptive ads, Minneapolis Star Tribune (May 22, 2011).
When you’re promoting a product or service online for your own business, or as an affiliate marketer, make sure you don’t cross the line into deceptive marketing with tactics like fake news reports or reviews. Your Internet attorney can help you tread through this cyber legal minefield.
-Mike the Internet Attorney