Taking Stock Of Your Sites
I recently joined a new ShareASale program and received emails from Matt McWilliams the Affiliate Manager for the Legacy Learning Systems product I’m going to be reviewing. One of the emails that he sent talked about being compliant with the 2009 FTC disclosure rules. In it, he mentioned the FTC had looked over all of the affiliate sites for this product and noted that NONE of them were compliant. At the very least, it got my attention.
Thanks to Matt, there was also a link to the FTC document, FTC plain language rules page and the DisclosurePolicy.org page where you can get a simple disclosure statement to add to your blog or site.
After reading the FTC rules I discovered that NONE of my sites were strictly adherent to the guidelines even if they all did have a disclosure statement on them.
The Rules In A Nutshell
Here is an excerpt from the ShareASale affiliate disclosure page.
There are four basic requirements for disclosures. All disclosures must be: Frequent, Clear, Conspicuous, and Requiring No Action. Details on how to comply with the Four Standards are below.
Placing one disclosure on your home page is not enough. Disclosures must be on every page of your site that has a review, recommendation, comment or article appears that promotes a product for which you receive any form of compensation.
The disclosure must make it clear right away to the reader that you are compensated for your review. You may include other information in your disclosure, such as whether you personally tested the product or that your review is honest, but you must disclose compensation first (at the beginning) and clearly. It should not be hidden in legalese.
The disclosure must be conspicuous and easy to see on your site (in other words, it should stand out). It has to stand out from other text on the page so that it is immediately evident to all visitors. The disclosure text must be as large or larger than the main text. The disclosure text must be colored (not black or gray) and contrast with both with its background and the main text. It must not be lighter than its background or the main text. It must begin with the word “Disclosure:”
#4) Requiring No Action
Your disclosure must be immediately visible to anyone who visits your reviews or endorsements. The visitor should not be required to take any action to view it. Such actions include:
- Scrolling: Your disclosure must appear “above the fold,” meaning the visitor does not have to scroll down to see it.
- Clicking: Visitors should not have to click a link to view your disclosure. Clickable links are only acceptable if the fact that your review is compensated is still obvious without clicking. See examples below.
How Did You Do?
As you can see, it’s easy to think you’re compliant when you’re not. It’s really not your fault if you made some effort at a disclosure page. When they were first published, the rules were vague and presented in a lengthy document. We mostly had to rely on people’s impression of the rules and many of those were wrong. Now, I think we have the tools to go over our sites and get them into compliance.
Will You Be Shut Down If You’re Not Compliant?
I don’t know the answer to that one. You have a much better chance at getting in trouble if you’ve made no attempt to comply than if your attempt is not dead on in my opinion. But that’s just my opinion and at the end of the day the FTC is not one generally to be messed with.
Take a look at your sites this week and determine what if any changes need to be made to get you compliant.