Web Lawyer: Gaming your testimonials and reviews

By September 28, 2010Website 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

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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