In the world of internet advertising, 11 years is a lifetime. The past decade has seen the popularization of pop-up blockers, social networking, and smartphone apps, yet the Federal Trade Commission’s guidance document advising businesses of their legal obligations related to internet advertising and sales has not been updated since 2000.
That’s about to change. The Commission has announced an upcoming revision of the guidance document, entitled “Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising,” and is seeking public comment.
The 2000 publication emphasized that online advertisements are subject to the same consumer protection laws that apply to ads in other media. The publication advised online advertisers on how to ensure that all required disclosures are presented clearly and conspicuously. For instance, advertisers must consider such factors as the prominence of the disclosure, its proximity to the relevant claim, whether other elements in the ad draw attention from the disclosures, whether audio disclosures are audible, and whether visual disclosure are visible for enough time, among other considerations.
With smaller screen sizes on mobile devices -- and a host of other changes in technology and internet activities -- it is possible that guidance concerning what is considered “clear and conspicuous” has changed in the past 11 years. As the Commission considers updating “Dot Com Disclosures,” it is particularly interested in comments concerning:
- What issues have been raised by internet features and new technologies that have emerged since 2000?
- What issues have been raised by new laws and regulations enacted since 2000?
- How will technologies on the horizon affect internet advertising?
- Which areas of the 2000 guidelines have become outdated?
Written comments should be mailed to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex I), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Naturally, written comments also can be submitted electronically. The public comment period ends on July 11, so -- to borrow a ubiquitous phrase from the world of advertising -- act now!