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Do You Need To Replace Your Customer Testimonials?

By Internet Lawyer, Website Lawyer

Just because you received a great customer testimonial doesn’t mean you should be using it forever to promote your business.

Sometimes a testimonial becomes stale because circumstances have changed.

For example, the claims the customer made in the testimonial are no longer true.

Or the product/service you sold the customer is no longer effective because of new technology or some other intervening factor.

Now if a testimonial becomes stale, it could become a fraudulent or deceptive marketing practice to continue using it.

So, what’s the solution?

Review your customer testimonials at least once a year to see if they’re still fresh or have gotten stale.

If there is something wrong, the first thing to decide is whether the testimonial can be salvaged by updating it.

Of course, if this is the case, contact the customer and ask them to modify the testimonial so that it’s accurate today.

Naturally, if you can’t salvage the testimonial, you’ll want to get rid of it. If feasible, request that the customer provide a new testimonial and explain why it’s necessary to replace the old one.

Customer testimonials is just one of many issues analyzed by Internet Business Lawyer Mike Young when he performs a website legal compliance review to help protect clients from civil lawsuits and government investigations.

Deceptive Endorsements: Spokeo and the FTC

By Internet Lawyer

There’s been a lot of focus in the $800,000 Spokeo settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

However, it’s important to note that the FTC also went after Spokeo for purportedly engaging in deceptive trade practices with regard to endorsements. This is a big no-no, particularly after the FTC’s revised guidelines concerning endorsements and testimonials went into effect on December 1, 2009.

Here’s what the FTC had to say about Spokeo endorsement issue…

The FTC also alleged that Spokeo deceptively posted endorsements of their service on news and technology websites and blogs, portraying the endorsements as independent when in reality they were created by Spokeo’s own employees. In addition to imposing the $800,000 civil penalty, the FTC’s settlement order bars Spokeo…from making misrepresentations about its endorsements or failing to disclose a material connection with endorsers.

As an Internet lawyer, I see this issue all the time even though the FTC has made it clear that you can’t engage in a campaign of deceptive endorsements and testimonials. Expect the Federal Trade Commission to continue making examples until companies finally “get it” that such misbehavior is anti-consumer.

Online marketer makes costly legal mistake

By Internet Lawyer
Internet attorney material connections disclosure

Are you disclosing material connections?

Here’s a recent case that your Internet attorney is probably talking about. There’s a company that sells how-to-play-the-guitar DVDs online that goofed up and got nailed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Because of the mistake, the business will fork over $250,000 to settle the charges the FTC brought against it.

Here’s what happened…

To boost credibility, the company used “consumer” testimonials and positive “independent” reviews that promoted the products online.

Unfortunately, the endorsements weren’t by consumers or independent. Instead, the positive endorsements were by affiliates who got paid commissions when sales occurred. According to the FTC, the company’s affiliates wrote “endorsements in articles, blog posts, and other online editorial material…”

Since December 1, 2009, the FTC has made it very clear that material connections, such as affiliate status, must be disclosed when promoting online. If you have any questions about material connections and disclosures, be sure to discuss them with your Internet attorney.

What’s the lesson?

You can’t pretend to be impartial when you’re actually getting paid commissions on the products and services you promote. Deception just begs for the FTC or your state attorney general to launch an investigation or even file a lawsuit.

Material connections extend beyond affiliate status. For example, if you’re promoting something because of your friendship with the seller, that needs to be disclosed too.

The goal is to give consumers all relevant facts so they can make an informed decision whether or not to purchase what’s being piked.

To your online success!

-Mike the Internet Attorney

Web Lawyer: Gaming your testimonials and reviews

By Website Lawyer

As a Web lawyer, I run into gurus who still make wild claims online in their sales copy, testimonials, and reviews because they haven’t been nailed yet by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The key word in this sentence is “yet.”

The FTC is cracking down against Internet claims based on the guidelines that went into effect last December.

Here’s an example of what not to do…

A public relations company was hired to post positive reviews of their client’s games. The PR business’s employees would write fake reviews of the software developer’s games in the iTunes store and then give the software 4 or 5 stars.

When the FTC got wind of this, they went after both the company as a corporation and the company’s owner as an individual. In other words, the PR business’s owner got put on the hook too for the testimonials without the corporate shield offering protection.

What went wrong?

Under the FTC guidelines, you’re supposed to fully disclose the material connections between the testimonial provider and product/service being promoted. Because this didn’t happen in this case, people reading the PR business’s positive reviews of the games could falsely assume the reviews were independent and unbiased.

If there’s a material connection that can taint a review or testimonial (such as being an affiliate for the product or service), that information must be disclosed so that readers can make an informed decision before buying. Your web lawyer can help you use choose the right words.

To your online success!

-Mike the Web Lawyer

Internet Attorney: Federal Trade Commission and Fake Testimonials

By Internet Lawyer

In addition to the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines (effective Dec. 1, 2009) that limit what you can do with endorsements and testimonials, there have been a lot of questions to me as an Internet attorney about other government agencies that can pursue you for deceptive practices.

Here’s a link to an example of a company that the State of New York’s Attorney General pursued for posting fake testimonials online. The company settled last year by paying $300,000 in penalties and costs.

Not something you’d want to get caught doing.

Best wishes,

-Mike the Internet attorney

P.S. If you want to learn more about creating testimonials based on the new FTC guidelines, you’ll want to check out the special report I co-authored with case studies expert Karl Barndt.