Now, before I get started, please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, nor should you consider what you are about to read as legal advice. I am just trying to pass something along that I think you should all be aware of.
In case you haven’t heard, on October 5, the Federal Trade Commission issued an update to its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising–the first update since 1980!
This update is mainly concerned with two things; first, stopping fake blog sites where the blogger is a totally made-up person with a totally made-up story designed to sell something (you know, those fake weight loss blogs, teeth whitening blogs, and money-making blogs we’ve all seen time and again), and second, how advertisements can use testimonials and endorsements.
Now, the blogging aspect is probably not that much of a concern to you (I highly doubt that any of you have created fictional bloggers to tell wildly false stories about deals you never really closed), and I’m pretty sure you’re not too worried about the celebrity endorsement stuff (but, just in case you do happen to have celebrities in your advertisements, you might want to let them know that if they make false or unsubstantiated claims on your behalf, or if you don’t disclose that you’re paying them to say how terrific you are, they may find themselves in trouble along with you!) but the new rule about testimonials is something you need to be aware of and take care to follow!
As you probably know, in the past, you were allowed to use testimonials to describe specific successful experiences clients had with your business as long as you included a disclaimer that said something like, “Results not typical.” In other words, you were allowed to have a quote from your clients, the Joneses, on your web site or flyers that said, “Our agent sold our house the first day it was on the market!” as long as the cover-your-rear-end statement “Results not typical” was written beneath it.
From this point on, however, this is not going to cut it! According to the FTC’s web site, “Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.”
What this means, is that just putting “Results not typical” or “Your results may vary” on your web site or flyer underneath that stellar quote from the Joneses will not keep you in compliance with the new guidelines. Instead, you’re going to either have to include a disclaimer that says something along the lines of, “Results not typical. The average client’s home sold in x number of days” or not use these kinds of testimonials at all.
So, be aware, be careful, and–when in doubt–consult an attorney so you don’t end up in a heap o’ trouble!