Mar 27, 2019

5 Dumb things that get FTC attention

Karl Kronenberger

The worst nightmare for an affiliate marketer is to wake up in the morning and discover that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has shut down your business, raided your offices, and frozen all of your assets, so that you can't even use your ATM card.

Simply put, the consequences for engaging in false and misleading marketing practices can be severe and devastating.However, one way to limit your risk is to know what the FTC looks for when identifying companies to investigate and eventually shut down. In fact, there are a number of really dumb things that affiliate marketers do that are massive red flags for the FTC.

1. Ignoring Customers Who May Complain

The FTC maintains a database of consumer complaints from the FTC website, state Attorneys General, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). When complaints pile up in the FTC's system, the risks are high that the FTC will start an investigation.Thus, marketers need to implement customer service tactics to minimize consumer complaints to the FTC or government agencies. If you make it hard for a customer to contact you to cancel an order, or are otherwise inattentive to unhappy customers, they will file complaints against you.

2. Assume Your Competitor Did the Research For You

So many advertisers make statements about product benefits without ever verifying whether or not the statements are true. This is especially true in the weight loss, anti-aging/skin, and testosterone verticals. When questioned about the substantiation for such claims, advertisers may explain how many of their competitors make the same claims. Wrong answer. Advertisers need to avoid the cycle of misinformation about certain ingredients and products. With so many advertisers repeating the same bogus or nonexistent 'studies' and 'clinical evidence,' it's like shooting fish in a barrel for FTC attorneys.Do your own research, and make certain that you have substantiation for all your marketing claims, especially if you are asking consumers to ingest a product or apply it on their skin.

3.Suggest That It Is Possible to Lose Weight Without Diet or Exercise

According to the FTC, it is not, so don't do this.

4. Use Doctored or Stolen Before-and-After Pictures

Advertisers may have gotten away with this fifteen years ago,but with advances in image search technology, it's as foolish as committing a crime without wearing gloves. It is too easy for the FTC to track down the originals and determine that you have lied to consumers about the expected results of using the product. Similarly, don't publish testimonials using stock photos or stolen profile pics. These, too, can be easily disproved.

5. 'Wait! Your Order Is Not Complete!' Upsells

These are up sells that appear after the original transaction is completed but that lead the consumer to believe the original order has not been completed. The FTC is coming down hard on these'don't do it.To avoid trouble with the FTC, stay off their radar, and that starts with not doing these really dumb things.


Karl Kronenberger is an advertising practices and FTC defense attorney based in San Francisco.