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Old 05-26-2013, 02:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
jtg
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Default The difference between a review and an endorsement, and what you need to disclose

I'm going to avoid mentioning specific incidents, individuals, or websites, and hope that this thread doesn't go there, but reviews around here have had some problems and are getting worse. I'm not accusing anyone of doing something shady, just that maybe some people are entering new territory and don't know the rules. This industry is pretty casual in general but there's a slippery slope.

If you are based in the US, these FTC rules apply to you. I don't know anything about other countries. These apply to bloggers and internet forum reviews. If you tweet on twitter that you like your new board, these rules apply. Please read it before writing your reviews.

If you work for a product company, you should also read it before posting anything on the forum that discusses your product or a competitors product. Even if you are posting under your own name, and you hate your employer but need a paycheck, and are not biased towards your employer, these rules affect you.

http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005...mentguides.pdf

Some relevant details if you don't feel like reading:

If you buy a board and decide to post a review, as any consumer would, that is a review. Under these guidelines, you can say whatever you want (other guidelines such as libel may still apply; that's beyond the scope of this governing body).

If you receive a free board, or have any material relationship with the vendor, or anything from which you derive benefit from the vendor, that is an endorsement. If you work with a vendor who "loans" you a test board, but "forgets" to collect it, and you have reason to believe that they'll let you keep it, that's still a paid endorsement under the law. Even if you completely trash-talk the product and have no bias, you're still bound by these rules.

With that title, you have several strict rules that you must now follow when discussing it. Some of these might be surprising.

1. You must fully and conspicuously disclose the nature of the relationship. You don't have to say how much you were paid, but you do have to say that you were paid, or you received some benefit.

2. You can't lie. If you say you rode some board and it has X specific benefit, you need to have the expertise and evidence to say that and it has to be true. If you don't, both you and the vendor are liable for false advertising.

3. You can't make claims that you aren't qualified to make. If you write as though you are an expert, but you are not, you're violating the law.


One example from the document clarifying where the line is drawn:

Quote:
A consumer who regularly purchases a particular brand of dog food decides one day to purchase a new, more expensive brand made by the same manufacturer. She writes in her personal blog that the change in diet has made her dog’s fur noticeably softer and shinier, and that in her opinion, the new food definitely is worth the extra money. This posting would not be deemed an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume that rather than purchase the dog food with her own money, the consumer gets it for free because the store routinely tracks her purchases and its computer has generated a coupon for a free trial bag of this new brand. Again, her posting would not be deemed an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume now that the consumer joins a network marketing program under which she periodically receives various products about which she can write reviews if she wants to do so. If she receives a free bag of the new dog food through this program, her positive review would be considered an endorsement under the Guides.
And another example:

Quote:
A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. Because his review is disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. The manufacturer should advise him at the time it provides the gaming system that this connection should be disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for compliance.
It's not productive to debate whether or not person X's fuzzy relationship will really create bias, who is trustworthy, etc. The rules are reasonable and exist for a good reason. It's not illegal to benefit from a positive review, but it is illegal to not disclose it.

Frankly, it's not following the letter of the law that I particularly care about myself, it's getting rid of all the BS when it comes to reviews. The law just happens to align with that pretty nicely in this case. Personally I make a lot of my buying decisions based on forum feedback, as do others, and the manufacturers know this quite well. I don't appreciate finding out after the fact that someone, or many people, turned out to be corporate shills or have a relationship with the manufacturer.

And if you're a product rep, keep in mind that everyone you give a board to is now an endorser and you are also legally liable for any claims they make, or fail to make.
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Old 05-26-2013, 06:11 PM   #2 (permalink)
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1. who the fuck are you, our new lawyer?

2. interesting read TBH. new to me anyway.

3. I paid 600 bucks for my Proto in Denver its worth every penny, will replace it with HD. Also paid full price for my Evil Twin which I hate and is a turd.

I keep trying to get free shit so my ethics can be faulty but its not working out for me. And fwiw I don't mind paying hard earned money for something I am going to use till it breaks.
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Old 05-26-2013, 06:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Free shit is always a bonus, but i settle for for discount if i can't get free...
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Old 05-26-2013, 06:28 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowklinger View Post
1. who the fuck are you, our new lawyer?

2. interesting read TBH. new to me anyway.

3. I paid 600 bucks for my Proto in Denver its worth every penny, will replace it with HD. Also paid full price for my Evil Twin which I hate and is a turd.

I keep trying to get free shit so my ethics can be faulty but its not working out for me.
haha no, I'm definitely not a lawyer, I'm not threatening anyone, I'm not going to do shit. I saw a lot of confusion about this in other threads, and uh, certain drama recently could have maybe been avoided if people were aware. Honestly, it's more the manufacturers responsibility to be aware of this and they should know better.

I have a bit of experience with reviews from an unrelated industry, and they're generally pretty slimy because of how industry incentives work, so anyone who doesn't want to be accused of not being legit can at least be aware of these things.
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Old 05-26-2013, 07:25 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hence the reason for stuff like Shayboarder's "honesty box" where a reviewer can outline how they got their hands on a product etc. Makes sense and gives the reader enough information to make up their own minds IMO.
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Old 05-26-2013, 07:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowklinger View Post
1. who the fuck are you, our new lawyer?

2. interesting read TBH. new to me anyway.

3. I paid 600 bucks for my Proto in Denver its worth every penny, will replace it with HD. Also paid full price for my Evil Twin which I hate and is a turd.

I keep trying to get free shit so my ethics can be faulty but its not working out for me. And fwiw I don't mind paying hard earned money for something I am going to use till it breaks.



What the fuck is wrong with you?????

Why are you paying full price for anything?

Here, go buy next years Proto, brand new, $445.

Never Summer Snowboard Proto 2014

Save a couple hundred bucks, Write HD on it with a sharpie.
You won't even know the diff?


TT
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Old 05-26-2013, 08:06 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Honestly these FTC rules were created mainly to target internet marketers doing reviews for affiliates commissions and using dodgy marketing tactics - not really for the type of reviews you see on this board.

While disclosure is always important and you should disclose if you got a product for free or received compensation, I also think you're stretching a bit with some of those rules to fit this context.

See:

2. You can't lie. If you say you rode some board and it has X specific benefit, you need to have the expertise and evidence to say that and it has to be true. If you don't, both you and the vendor are liable for false advertising.

While it's good if a reviewer doesn't lie about a board's qualities, it's next to impossible to enforce this rule in terms of how someone felt about a snowboard's performance.

This rule was created for people who make false claims like "Earn $150 a day working 2 hours per day guaranteed!"

3. You can't make claims that you aren't qualified to make. If you write as though you are an expert, but you are not, you're violating the law.


There are no official qualifications for reviewing snowboards.

This rule was created to target people who made claims like "This method will cure diabetes!"

So yeah... disclosure is important, but the rest of the rules aren't really meant for or aimed at this niche.
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Old 05-26-2013, 08:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Yes it is definitely applicable. You're kidding yourself if you think they don't apply to snowboard reviews. Read the document, read the example about a kid reviewing video games on his blog. Same shit. The FTC even calls out twitter, facebook, blogs etc as who that message is intended for.

There is room for interpretation on some of those. You can't split hairs over what makes an expert for snowboarding, sure, but if you got a free Arc jacket and you go into detail about how it's superior to all others because of the chemical process their variation of goretex uses, that guideline is talking about you. Or even if you say, "this will improve your riding by 60% guaranteed". If you're giving opinons regarding taste and preference or your own experiences you can say whatever you want as far as that goes.

Shayboarders reviews are a good example of doing it right.
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Old 05-26-2013, 08:26 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtg View Post
Yes it is definitely applicable. You're kidding yourself if you think they don't apply to snowboard reviews. Read the document, read the example about a kid reviewing video games on his blog. Same shit. The FTC even calls out twitter, facebook, blogs etc as who that message is intended for.

There is room for interpretation on some of those. You can't split hairs over what makes an expert for snowboarding, sure, but if you got a free Arc jacket and you go into detail about how it's superior to all others because of the chemical process their variation of goretex uses, that guideline is talking about you. If you're giving opinons regarding taste and preference or your own experiences you can say whatever you want as far as that goes.
Trust me. I work in the internet marketing space and I know the rules very well, probably better than anyone on this forum. The FTC didn't make those rules for what you're trying to apply them here.

Do you really think the FTC is going to call up some reviewer on the forum and say "Hey, you said that board had great edge hold. We tried it and it only has mediocre edge hold. You lied!" Heck no. Board performance is very subjective and you'd have a nightmare trying to prove someone didn't get that benefit when they rode a certain snowboard.

Of course they can't make false claims about the chemical properties of a jacket, but the fact that you have to go to such a bizarrely specific example that no one would ever say is the point I'm trying to make. A more probable situation is someone reviewing the jacket who would say they "stayed dry when they wore it on a wet day on the slopes" and you can't prove/disprove that easily without context and specific circumstances.

Your last line sums it up: "If you're giving opinions regarding taste and preference or your own experiences you can say whatever you want as far as that goes."

This is all before we even get to the fact that the FTC targets people who own actual websites, blogs, companies and don't typically target individuals writing on forums that aren't even owned by them.
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Last edited by Jed; 05-26-2013 at 08:42 PM.
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Old 05-26-2013, 08:29 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtg View Post
haha no, I'm definitely not a lawyer, I'm not threatening anyone, I'm not going to do shit. I saw a lot of confusion about this in other threads, and uh, certain drama recently could have maybe been avoided if people were aware. Honestly, it's more the manufacturers responsibility to be aware of this and they should know better.

I have a bit of experience with reviews from an unrelated industry, and they're generally pretty slimy because of how industry incentives work, so anyone who doesn't want to be accused of not being legit can at least be aware of these things.
I get where you are coming from with this but I don't think these so called laws will touch many forums in this context, but I do think it is a good basis for the mods to consider when people write reviews. Maybe people should always include how they came to test the board?

If you put the work in on here though you can read between the lines, if you look at a persons previous posts and threads you can see the ones who test/review a number of boards across different brands and those who just ride and review the same brands over and over again with glowing verdicts on each and every one.
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