Issued in 2000, the Federal Trade Commission’s “Dot Com Disclosures” document helps online businesses avoid deception with guidance on how to disclose “in a clear and conspicuous way” information material to any form of consumer interaction with its products or services. As D. Reed Freeman, Jr., a Morrison & Foerster partner focused on consumer protection law, explains, this useful document is getting a new look.
“The FTC is reviewing its guidance for the new media universe of mobile devices, apps, and social media,” says Freeman. “As before a disclosure must be unavoidable, but that is challenging in today’s 3-D world of shrinking screens and hyperlinks.”
With the comment period now closed and press announcements of the new guidelines expected by early 2012, what should online advertisers look for? “Rather than impose hard rules on this dynamic, fast-evolving market, we’re expecting the FTC to take a flexible approach,” says Freeman. “For some specific situations, the FTC may provide examples that suggest design-based standards such as size, placement, and proximity. Overall, though, the FTC will likely provide ‘performance-based’ guidelines, with enough flexibility to last through the continued development of advertising media in the mid-term.”