Today the Federal Trade Commission issued updated guidance regarding endorsements. As you may recall, the FTC last issued endorsement guidance in June 2010. That guidance focused on three major principles:
- Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading;
- Endorsements cannot contain claims requiring proof you don't have; and
- Endorsements must clearly disclose any material connection between the endorser and the advertiser.
That last point has been the subject of some discussion and concern for consumers using social media. The FTC's Testimonial Guides, in fact, specifically address social media concerns. Nevertheless, it seems that, in practice, compliance with the FTC's guidance has not been too great a burden, as common sense has prevailed.
Nonetheless, because the social media activities of endorsers cannot be pre-screened at all times, or even directly monitored in many instances, it is a good idea to remind those associated with your franchise system, especially current franchisees, of the FTC endorsement guides. While current franchisees are probably some of your most ardent fans, neither you nor they want to run afoul of the guidance.
Which brings us full circle to today's updated guidance. For the most part, today's message from the FTC reinforces the current endorsement guidance. What is new, and I believe quite helpful, is a short video that describes the guidance and answers some frequently asked questions. It will likely become a useful education tool for anyone subject to the guidance.