False Advertising?

"Sites Accused of False Advertising"

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has asked federal courts to stop a wave of fake news sites that entice consumers to buy unproven weight-loss products.

The sites are violating Federal law by using the logos of major news outlets to convince consumers they are reading real news reports. In reality, the sites are advertisements.

Any time a web site owner uses a logo, of any kind, to mislead visitors as to the veracity of the web site - and therefore, a product - they are in violation of Federal law.

This is, of course, in addition to being in violation of a copyright and/or trademark. Deception is deception!

I know, as the Director of Chamber of Commerce - on the Web,™ I will be thrilled to see the day they begin checking organization logos for valid verification links!

The Wild, Wild Web is Being Tamed

I send this information for iCop members so you'll know what you can - and can't - do. I send it for those subscribers who are simply online consumers to protect you - so you'll know what to look for!

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently published guidelines regarding “Negative Option” enrollment programs and is taking a very aggressive position against merchants using this business practice.

"Negative option" means: if you don't do something to stop them, the merchant will continue to charge you on a regular basis. This usually, but not always, goes along with a free trial and/or "pay shipping only."

Recommendations taken from the FTC's website are included in the following article:


I don't mean to be redundant but, if you're an online business owner, you're also an online consumer. Please be sure you check websites to be sure they're in compliance with the FTC guidelines - BEFORE you buy!

That's a good start. You see, I have faith that “internet marketers” are more creative than the FTC. I don't doubt they'll find other ways to take advantage of people.

The latest little scam I've seen popped up again last week. I went to a site that displays four phony “trust” seals.

They read: Privacy Confirmed - Business Confirmed - Identity Confirmed - Security Confirmed.

Yeah? Confirmed by whom? Well, it claims to be by “Honest Online” with a bullet between those two words. So, it isn't the company you might assume!

The website is entitled "The Google Traffic Pump System." Aside from those seals - that link to no where - there's no contact information and no privacy statement. It only has one of those silly, "We hate spam as much as you do" lines.

It took me five - count 'em FIVE - clicks to get off the damn page. Now, there's a website I would avoid!

But, I'm also beginning to have faith the FTC will continue to add to their “guidelines” (which are really regulations) as needed. After about 15 years, it's about time, don't you think?

By the way, it isn't too late to get your own website legal documents brought up to date. Every iCop member should have this package:


New Data Security Regulations

We just get past the deadline for compliance with new U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and something else rises up ...

The State of Massachusetts has passed a LAW imposing new minimum data security standards on companies that collect, store or transmit personal information concerning Massachusetts residents.

By October 1, 2010 similar requirements will be imposed for all customers by the credit card industry. But, right now, we need to deal with Massachusetts.

To be sure I don't misinform you, I would prefer you get the full information from a more official article here:


All these new rules are making folks wonder if they should even be in business on the Web. Yes! You should!

iCop members have always been required to adhere to regulatory agency guidelines. It's right there in our guidelines and always has been. I changed the wording a bit with the new regs, but it's nothing new.

Twitter has shown me how pitifully many people are out there still trying to make a killing with quick buck money-making schemes. They simply never end - and people just don't get it!

If you're going to have your own business - have it! Just follow the rules like you would down on Main Street. People have been doing it for generations.

Nobody ever said, "Here's the Internet, go out and do whatever you please with no regard for the law or ethical business practices!"

This is exactly what iCop has always been about: high online business ethics and excellent customer care! Now, finally, the Wild, Wild Web is being tamed. The crapola is on its way out. 'Bout bloody time!

How "Guidelines" Become Law

This article is to help both online business owners, those thinking about selling online AND online consumers! I'm putting to rest some questions and arguments, once and for all.

If you were to start a business down on Main Street, you would - without question - find out what the legal ramifications are, and do whatever is necessary to cover your butt.

I continue to fail to see WHY folks think that should be different if they have a business on the Web. It still seems as if way too many online business owners think they can cut corners just by the very fact that they DO operate online.

This is an erroneous idea that gets people into trouble!

I DO understand you can start an online business for FAR less capital than it takes down on Main Street. This is a GREAT thing for those losing jobs or needing additional income. I whole-heartedly recommend it!

However ... Are you in business - or not? The Web isn't a playpen, and it should be taken seriously if you plan to make a living on it!

Who do YOU do Business With?

Consumers ARE finally becoming more savvy about who they choose to do business with. They look for physical contact information - including a telephone number.

But, they are ALSO learning to look for the legal documents that protect them. True: it's becoming more complicated. At one time, it was mostly just a Privacy Statement they expected.

So many scammers have now brought consumers to the point for knowing to look for more protection. Can you blame them?

I shop online constantly, and you'd better believe I'm VERY careful to be sure the companies I patronize have the proper legal documents! I want to be SURE I'm dealing with a professional - and legal - business!

Which Brings Us to My Point ...

I RARELY join an affiliate program. If I did it for one iCop member, I'd feel like I had to do it for all of them. No time.

But, I DID join the AutoWebLaw Pro program when it first came out. Why? Because this is a product that can do nothing but help every single online business owner!

In fact, it's a NECESSARY product to doing legitimate business online. I truly believe in it for several reasons - not the least of which is the money business owners can save by using it instead of running to a business attorney every time some regulatory guideline changes.

And, by the way, the words "guidlelines" and "regulations" ARE used interchangeably by the regulatory institutions!

In another life, and for 15 years, I dealt with legal documents, and business laws in particular, for the businesses I represented in keeping them out of bankruptcy. There isn't much I don't know about how the legal system works for business.

So, you can believe me when I tell you the documents in AutoWebLaw Pro are TOP-NOTCH. And, I'll guarantee you - I wouldn't promote them for a single minute if they weren't!

It isn't just the current FTC new "guidelines." The AutoWebLaw Pro package is full of more legal advice than you can shake a stick at! All you have to do to gain that advice is READ all the documents.

Now, I know the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or a similar agency in other countries, isn't going gunning for every small business owner online. They don't have the staff for that.

But, let a couple of consumers report you for something, and see what happens! Once a red flag goes up, an investigation can start while you're blissfully drinking your coffee and counting your money.

You won't know anything about it until someone arrives on your door step with a subpoena!

“Well, (Boo-Hoo) it's only a guideline!”

“Yeah, Pal, it's a guideline today, but as soon as we take you to court, and win - which we will - it sets a precedent that makes it part of the LAW. We refine the “law” as we go along!”

The BASIC law simply says, “No deceptive advertising.” But, what constitutes deceptive advertising is determined by the courts!

You should also know - if you don't live in the USA and your payment processor IS in the USA, all U.S. FTC laws also apply to you. Refuse to comply and you can lose your payment processor!

Two Final Tips

  • Consumers are absolutely RIGHT to look for, and read, legal documents on a website. And, not lay down a single penny until they do!
  • Every online business owner is ALSO an online consumer. Legal documents apply to you from BOTH sides!

Article Copyrights

Creative Commons License
These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
To re-publish articles by jl scott from this site, please include the following byline - with live links - after each article you use.

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* dr. jl scott is the Founder of Chamber of Commerce - on the Web™ http://www.ChamberofCommerce-ontheWeb.com - and also the publisher of the Online Business Trade Journal™ - the blog that keeps you up to date with online business coming of age. Visit: http://www.OnlineBusinessTradeJournal.com

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