I read a LOT of blogs. And what I see far too many times are blogs with affiliate links and no disclosure – or it’s in tiny font and hidden at the bottom of the post. As a blogger in the USA, do you know that this can get your site shut down?
I’m not a lawyer
I want to make that perfectly clear. What I am is a blogger that reads a lot of blogs and is in (far too many) blog-related Facebook groups. Every once in a while, someone posts about how their site was shut down, and they have no idea why. Usually, a very seasoned blogger will answer with an update on the latest FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines.
Now the savvy bloggers will go and read the guidelines right from the source, because you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. But what you CAN believe is the the FTC! Then they go to their site and make sure they are up to date and in compliance. It’s the bloggers who are complacent, and don’t take immediate action. These are the ones that will be the next to post about being shut down.
Read the agreement
I bet that when you signed up for an affiliate program you read the entire agreement. Yeah. Sure you did.
To be sure that you don’t get shut down – or violate any laws – please, please please read the agreement. If you don’t understand the requirements, ask your attorney. You have one, right?
The first place to read up on what your responsibilities are – and YES, you ARE responsible – is the Federal Trade Commission website. Below is an excerpt from that site that outlines the placement of a disclosure, font, and colour:
“The Guides say that disclosures have to be clear and conspicuous. What does that mean?
To make a disclosure “clear and conspicuous,” advertisers should use clear and unambiguous language and make the disclosure stand out. Consumers should be able to notice the disclosure easily. They should not have to look for it. In general, disclosures should be:
close to the claims to which they relate;
in a font that is easy to read;
in a shade that stands out against the background;
for video ads, on the screen long enough to be noticed, read, and understood;
for audio disclosures, read at a cadence that is easy for consumers to follow and in words consumers will understand.
A disclosure that is made in both audio and video is more likely to be noticed by consumers. Disclosures should not be hidden or buried in footnotes, in blocks of text people are not likely to read, or in hyperlinks. If disclosures are hard to find, tough to understand, fleeting, or buried in unrelated details, or if other elements in the ad or message obscure or distract from the disclosures, they don’t meet the “clear and conspicuous” standard.”
Excerpt from the FTC website: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking
What needs to be included in your disclosure statement and policy(ies) will depend on the affiliate program(s). Again, read the agreement as the program will lay out what is required. This will be in addition to adhering to the FTC guidelines. Don’t think that just doing one disclosure will keep you in compliance!
Free product disclosure
Uh huh. If a company sends you freebies to use and blog about, or post about on social media, you have to disclose that as well. Since I do not get free products, that is not something I can speak to. But be assured that the FTC has a policy on it, which you can read here: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking#how
Please cover your butt and read up on what the Federal Trade Commission requires, and the agreements with your affiliate programs. I would hate to see you get shut down! Again, I am not a lawyer, but this is serious stuff that needs to be addressed. If you have questions or are unsure if you are in compliance, ask your attorney.