FTC and Bloggers

Back in December, the Federal Trade Commission released new guidelines that specifically required bloggers to disclose any material connections to a product or company they are writing about.

The FTC had opened an investigation against Ann Taylor Stores for providing gifts to bloggers who the company expected would post blog content about Ann Taylor’s LOFT stores.

Apparently Ann Taylor missed the memo from their law firm about these guidelines.  LOFT held a preview of their Summer 2010 collection and provided gifts to bloggers at January 26, 2010 event. Bloggers who attended failed to disclose that they received gifts for posting blog content about that event.

“Depending on the circumstances, an advertiser’s provision of a gift to a blogger for posting blog content about an event could constitute a material connection that is not reasonably expected by readers of the blog.”

The FTC decided not to bring an enforcement action and Ann Taylor escaped punishment. The FTC gave these reasons:

  1. The January 26,2010 preview was the first (and, to date, only) such preview event.
  2. Only a very small number of bloggers posted content about the preview, and several of those bloggers disclosed that LOFT had provided them gifts at the preview.
  3. LOFT adopted a written policy in February 2010 stating that LOFT will not issue any gift to any blogger without first telling the blogger that the blogger must disclose the gift in his or her blog.

Apparently, LOFT posted a sign at the event stating that bloggers should disclose that they received gifts. It seems clear that companies should get a signed agreement from their endorsers about their requirement to disclose before handing out gifts.

As the FTC had stated when the released the Guidelines, they went after the company not the bloggers. Although the FTC may go after the bloggers also.