As part of “Operation Full Disclosure,” the Federal Trade Commission has sent warning letters to more than 60 companies that allegedly failed to make adequate disclosures in their television and print ads. According to a September 23, 2014 statement from the agency, the effort is the agency’s latest “to ensure that advertisers comply with federal law and do not mislead consumers.”
While the effort focused upon television and print advertisements, the FTC specifically mentioned the 2013 initiative addressing online disclosures in new media.
The warning letters addressed fine print disclosures and those that the agency deemed “otherwise easy to miss or hard to read, yet contained important information needed to avoid misleading consumers.” In addition to identifying problematic ads, the FTC staff recommended that advertisers review all their advertising “to ensure that any necessary disclosures are truly ‘clear and conspicuous.’ ”
The FTC has had a “long-standing guidance” about disclosures in advertisements. They should be close to the claims to which they relate. They should not be hidden or buried in unrelated details. They should appear in a font that is easy to read and in a shade that stands out against the background.
Disclosures in television ads should be on the screen long enough to be noticed, read and understood. Other elements in the advertisements should not obscure or distract from the disclosures.
The “clear and conspicuous” standard is often misunderstood.
Simply stated, disclosures should use clear and unambiguous language and should stand out in the advertising. Consumer should be able to notice disclosures easily and not have to search for them.
Consumer protection laws apply equally to marketers across all media, whether delivered on a desktop computer, a mobile device or more traditional media like television or print.
Information conveyed in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor should it be relied upon, as legal advice. No person should act or rely on any information in this article without seeking the advice of an attorney.