The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment about proposed revisions to its guidance to businesses about online advertising. In its May 26 statement the FTC said modifications to its “Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising” should reflect the dramatic changes in the online world since its first publication 11 years ago.
The FTC listed four emerging areas it intends to address in this revision: social networking, mobile marketing, “pop-up blockers,” and the applications economy. The FTC specifically is interested in “the technical and legal issues that marketers, consumer advocates, and others believe should be addressed.”
Steve DelBianco, executive director for NetChoice, a coalition of trade associations, e-commerce businesses, and online consumers advocating convenience, choice, and commerce on the Internet, says any new FTC guidelines should avoid stringent regulations.
“Online advertising enables free services that were unimaginable the last time these regulations were updated,” said DelBianco. “So the FTC should ensure that any new policies leave ample room for continued innovation that benefits consumers.”
‘Not Overly Burdensome’
John Stephenson, director of the telecommunications and information technology task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, says technology has come a long way in a short time, and rules for online advertising simply cannot account for growing technologies.
“Since 2000, when these advertising rules first were announced, we had an explosion in e-commerce,” Stephenson said. “It’s important when the FTC is reaching out to stakeholders to talk to the ones who are most familiar with the new technologies and gathering their input so that whatever rules they adopt take account of the technology changes [and] how they function, and are not overly burdensome.”
The 2000 guidance explains to online marketers how the FTC consumer protection laws apply to online advertising and sales on the internet. For example, the “Dot Com Disclosures” section of the guidance states that the same consumer protection laws apply to businesses that operate online: “All businesses have a legal responsibility to ensure that their advertising is truthful and not deceptive. And no matter where an ad appears – on the Internet, on the radio or television, in newspapers and magazines, in the mail, or on billboards or buses – the same truth-in-advertising standard applies.
Opportunity for public comment began on May 26, 2011, and will run through July 2011.
Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.
“Advertising Guidance,” Federal Trade Commission Official Web Site, May 2000: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/guides.shtm