In a Federal Trade Commission notice published last week, the agency warned the advertising industry that penalties could be coming for the use of deceptive endorsements.  The FTC not only released the notice, but it also sent a letter (a version of which is available here) to hundreds of businesses (a list is here) – advertisers, advertising agencies, and a few media companies – reminding them of the FTC’s concerns about deceptive endorsements in advertising.  While the FTC makes clear that this list of recipients of the letter does not indicate that any of them did anything wrong, it does make clear that the FTC takes this issue very seriously and wants to highlight the issue for the entire advertising ecosystem.  The letter reminds businesses that violations can lead to fines of up to $43,792 per violation and other penalties.

What are the FTC concerns?  The FTC said that prohibited practices “include, but are not limited to: falsely claiming an endorsement by a third party; misrepresenting whether an endorser is an actual, current, or recent user; using an endorsement to make deceptive performance claims; failing to disclose an unexpected material connection with an endorser; and misrepresenting that the experience of endorsers represents consumers’ typical or ordinary experience.”  In other words, when an endorser says something about a product, the FTC is expecting that the endorser used the product and the statements that it makes about the product are accurate and reflect what consumers can expect from that product.  This is not the first time that the FTC has raised these issues.
Continue Reading FTC Reminds Advertisers That Deceptive Endorsements in Advertising Can Lead to Penalties

There is nothing new about the FTC bringing enforcement actions based on deceptive advertising practices.  Those cases are the FTC’s bread and butter.  But in recent years the FTC has been pushing forward with cases that address the increasingly complex network of entities involved in marketing, including companies that collect, buy, and sell consumer information and play other behind-the-scenes roles in marketing campaigns.  The FTC has also taken a strong interest in deceptively formatted advertising, including “native” advertising that does not adequately disclose sponsorship connections.  A recent Court of Appeals decision highlights the potential for any internet company to be liable for a deceptive advertising campaign that it had a hand in orchestrating – even if the company itself does not create the advertising material.

The decision in this case, FTC v. LeadClick Media, LLC, comes from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and is a significant victory for the FTC and its co-plaintiff, the State of Connecticut.  Specifically, the decision holds that online advertising company LeadClick is liable for the deceptive ads that were published as part an advertising campaign that it coordinated, even though LeadClick itself did not write or publish the ads.  In addition, the Second Circuit rejected LeadClick’s argument that its ad tracking service provided it with immunity from the FTC’s action under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
Continue Reading Second Circuit Holds Marketing Campaign Organizer Liable Under FTC Act for Deceptive Representations of Its Marketing “Affiliates”