FTC Plans to Revise Dot Com Disclosures
The Internet marketing industry has evolved dramatically over the past decade. However, laws and regulations governing related conduct have virtually remained static. Thus, the Federal Trade Commission appears to be getting closer to updating its 2000 guidance document, Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising, to encompass progressive information technology developments such as small-screen marketing on mobile devices, pop-up blockers, apps, and online social networking. While the Dot Com Disclosures emphasized the need for appropriate disclosures, it understandably failed to contemplate today’s unforeseen contemporary issues.
New regulatory guidance that accurately reflects these changes in technology is a must. While the Dot Com Disclosures addressed how those engaged in eCommerce could comply with rules on legally required disclosures and offered suggestions on how font size, colors, hyperlinks, and web page placement of material text could be used to satisfy a business’s legal obligation to make important disclosures to consumers in a clear and conspicuous fashion, those in the online marketing community require and deserve clearly defined modern guidelines. The FTC has requested comments from consumers and advertisers alike regarding the proposed changes to the Dot Com Disclosures and how to reform clear and conspicuous disclosure requirements for those in the online business sector. Issues such as anticipated technological developments, today’s online advertising techniques, and consumer online behavior will certainly be addressed in a revised business guide.
The FTC is the watch-dog for consumers and is generally perceived as anti-business. At least on the issue of revised regulatory guidelines it appears that the Commission is willing to consider alternative perspectives that will ultimately give those in the online marketing community a fair opportunity to educate the public and set-forth why certain “controversial” advertising methods are actually necessary, harmless, and easily preventable by consumers. For example, online behavioral advertising. A balanced response from advertisers and consumer advocates alike may enhance the Commission’s recognition of the sheer madness that harming an industry continuing to flourish, despite a troubled economy, would be.