Saturday, July 31, 2010

FTC - Federal Trade Commission - USA

Since 1995, I have been blogging on the internet. Of course, then we called it journaling a log about our experiences. A digitally written diary of the minutiae of our lives. Ridiculously unimportant and filled with personal anecdotes about nothing. Occasionally, I would mention a cool product that I bought or a place that I went to such as a restaurant or store. And, even then, the journals were just my musings.

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When the internet exploded with journals, we started calling them blogs. Blah blah blah logs became blogs. The content was still about nothing much, but we could see that someone was reading our little missives and it made a difference in our businesses. Another way to connect with our consumer base.

We started reviewing the things we liked and the things we lived with daily. A restaurant would send a voucher for a dinner or a manufacturer would send a freebie t-shirt. Benign gifts of accolades and thank-you's.

Then, we started getting the big gifts. The stuff that was expensive and made us feel a bit creepy accepting. Sure, we loved their products but it made me feel like a paid agent for their company. So, I made a decision and said, "No more.

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The decision was made way back in the late1990's. I would have to check my archived files for those first disclosure contracts. Yes, I had my entire team sign them and the legal language was harsh. If you wrote something and you were given a monetary gift, you were fired.

In this virtual world of international interests, the lines blur. People send gifts to each other for all kinds of kindness. I get gifts from avis from my group, and I return them or delete them after letting them know that I can't accept them. On THE A LIST! the lines blur even more. We are a business group and our members give the group gifts. As long as it is a gift that is shared among the entire group, then Xavier and I feel that it is not a gift for blogging.

The problem is that if a gift is given and I wasn't online and it is sitting in my inventory; that fact alone may taint my reputation if ever the logs were reviewed. It is a difficult situation for me. In THE A LIST! we have asked our contributors to disclose gifts, and we have a disclaimer on those blogs. Because both of us are on American soil with FTC -Federal Trade Commission blogging laws over our heads, we want to try our best to adhere to US laws.

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We know how ridiculous laws can be, but this one tries to protect the consumer. I think we know gifts are given to bloggers from Consumer Report. It is obvious that the product manufacturer gave the blogger the product for review. The reason we believe Consumer Reports reviews is that the evaluations can be harsh... very harsh. So, we believe that the products are honestly evaluated and CR has a disclaimer.

I am the blogger on THE A LIST! and I want to make sure that people know that I do not accept gifts from any of the group members unless they have shared that gift with the entire group. So, my blogs do not have a disclaimer. Some of the contributors have a disclaimer on their post because it is a product review and the item was given by the creator.

How the FTC reviews the millions of blogs in the real world or virtual world is interesting in itself. And, the law will fine the blogger and the product creator, too. Ouch! Double slam. So, we try to protect both interests. No gifts period is a good policy. It's best that we stay as squeaky clean as possible. As far as some industries, it's practically a given that those gifts to the avis are for reviews. But, now we disclose that in those specific posts and let you decide.

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