Are You an Online Advertising and Marketing Criminal?

Your Internet Marketing Can Land You In a Cell Like This One.

If you run your business as a sole proprietorship and are planning to market using the Internet, speak to your lawyer. Ask him if he agrees that once you start a marketing campaign, you should change the form of your business from a sole proprietorship to a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). Doing this means that your business, but not you, can be held responsible for any misfortunes with your Internet marketing that leads to a lawsuit – in other words, an LLC lowers your personal liability risks. Jail Cell

Internet marketers have to understand that there are legal boundaries for Internet marketing and advertising, often under Federal Agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

As an Internet marketing firm, Webociti keeps abreast of regulations governing Internet marketing and advertising.

What Kinds of Things Does the FTC Regulate?

All kinds of things and following are information about FTC enforcement.

Fake Reviews

New businesses have little or no track record for ratings or testimonials, leading those new to Internet marketing to buy made up reviews of their company and its goods or services.

Is this practice legal? Not according to the FTC. In past cases, judges hearing cases related to fake reviews said they are “false and misleading.”  The FTC has successfully sued businesses that bought fake reviews as violators of the Federal Trade Commission Act – so far no one has gone to jail and a jail term for buying fake reviews is unlikely.

What Laws Govern Online Marketing and Advertising

The same consumer protection laws that are used for brick and mortar stores apply to businesses that use the Internet for marketing, advertising, and sales. This puts into play the FTC Act’s ban on “unfair and deceptive practices” into play as it applies to Internet marketing.  A summary of the FTC’s regulations for Internet marketing include,

Advertising, including those found on company websites and how a company uses social media must conform to the following three principles of advertising law,

  1. Advertising must not be misleading or untrue
  2. Advertisers must have evidence to back up product claims. This is called “substantiation.”
  3. Advertisements must be fair. Fairness is evaluated by checking if the ad has made or is likely to make a consumer suffer an injury that they could not reasonably escape, is in violation of public policy, or is unethical and/or unscrupulous. One ad that fits this category is the infamous Joe the Camel advertising campaign that the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company ran. The FTC allowed the ads to run, despite the proper claims by many non-smoking advocacy groups that the ads were unfair and made smoking appealing to children with the use of a cartoon character – Joe the Camel.

What is a Business’s Responsibility For Consumer Privacy?

One thing that consumers insist upon is respect for their privacy. Some consumers fear the loss of their privacy and do not engage in online commerce. However, the Federal Trade Commission has important guidelines and legislation for consumer privacy protection. There is a specific law for protecting children that is a federal law enforced by the FTC. This law is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule that allows parents and not advertisers have control over the kind of information collected on anyone 13 years old or younger. While it is obvious that this rule applies to sites for kids, it also applies to sites that are general in nature and can be viewed by a general audience that includes kids covered.

While Internet advertising has the best-targeted audience at a lower cost than traditional advertising, it is governed by the same rules and laws that govern radio, TV, and print advertising and marketing. Keeping up with advertising laws,  making sure content creation is current, and safeguarding consumer privacy is hard to do while running a business at the same time. This is why so many companies across the United States work with Webociti  in Atlanta, Georgia. Call me,  at 678-892-7157 for more information about how we can help you with the legalities of your site.

Till Next Time,