Advertising Your Business on the Internet

With Internet sales and advertising continuing to rise as a predominant force in today’s marketplace, it is essential that you market your product or services on the Internet in order to be successful. However, as with any type of advertising, there are a number of rules that you must follow in order to comply with the law as enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Avoid Misleading Advertising

The basic rule for Internet advertising is that you must tell the truth, and avoid misleading the customer in your advertisement. Plus, if you make any claims about your product, such as a claim that it was voted the most effective new product by a certain magazine last year, then you must have the evidence to back up your claim. 
More specifically, both the producers of a product and any advertising agencies or third parties that place information about the product on the Internet can be liable if the advertising is false or misleading to the customer. So, if you are creating a website for a particular product, make sure that you have information to prove any claims that you’re making about the product, and that you are not misleading the customer in any way. If you are going to make a disclaimer or disclosure to your customer about a product, you must do so very clearly, so that the customer has a clear understanding of what your product, for example, can do and not do. Likewise, if you include a demonstration of the product, then you must provide a demonstration that would occur under normal circumstances. Plus, if you state that you will provide refunds for dissatisfied customers, then you have to provide the refunds as promised. 
While you are currently not required to do so, it is also good practice to clearly advise your customer as to how you collect personal information from users of your website, and how that information is used. The FTC provides voluntary guidelines that can help you combat the public’s increasing concerns about privacy issues on the Internet.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

Furthermore, if you are marketing a product toward children, you must comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This law requires that if you are directing your website to children under thirteen (13) years of age, or to a general audience that you know results in the collection of information from a child under this age, then you must obtain parental permission before collecting that information from the child.
Additionally, the FTC enforces a number of other laws related to advertising a product on the Internet. For instance, it is deceptive to represent that your product provides some general benefit to the environment. If you advertise a product as “buy one, get one free”, then you must provide the second product free, and the first product at its regular price. There are also special advertising rules that apply to the sale of jewelry, continued automatic shipments of merchandise, shipping timeframes, and wool or textile products.  

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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