How to Legally Use Testimonials & Online Reviews for Business

By July 26, 2013Business Law

Many small businesses use testimonials and online reviews from customers in their advertising and marketing. The power of customer quotes and referrals sometimes differentiate failure and success. However, while using these important tools, make sure you are using them legally without contravening any law.

Across the United States, FTC (Federal Trade Commission) looks into laws regarding consumer protection in certain areas. If you want to use endorsements and testimonials to help you in promoting your services and products, you should know a couple of things to make sure you are doing it legally.

Legally Using Testimonials, Endorsements & Online Reviews

All online reviews, endorsements and testimonials must be truthful and not deceiving. This means they must reflect the actual opinion and experience of the endorser. Testimonials and reviews online making claims about your service or products which cannot be backed up with obvious proof cannot be used. For instance, there are ads promising weight reduction miracles with backing quotes apparently from users testifying to the success of the product. Nonetheless, lack of scientific confirmation proving the truth misleads customers. In this case, the Federal Trade Commission could hold the endorser and owner of the product responsible for engaging in deceptive promotional practices.

Be Honest.

The online reviews and endorsements should mirror the experience of all users. Apart from being clear and truthful, the endorsements should be a typical and clear reflection of all users of the service or product. It should not just be an experience of a couple of satisfied users. If this requirement is not met, the advert should clearly indicate the limited applicability of the user’s experience or what the user of the product should expect. Disclaimers to the effect that results vary from one user to the next or not all users will enjoy the same results are not enough.

Get Permission.

A good way of doing this as a small business owner is getting permission from endorsers of the product or service before posting their testimonials, more so if you would like to have their names posted. Also, the endorsers or reviewers should be asked if they can be contacted later for a reference in case a potential user would like more information related to their experience with the product or service.

Disclose Affiliations.

Affiliations and connections should be disclosed to endorsers. In the case of a material connection to a product endorser, this must be disclosed. For instance, even if you simply pay affiliate markets or bloggers with free samples for them to review, the relationship must be disclosed. It is legally alright to use the endorsements in any advertising or marketing of a product but a disclaimer to the effect that the company owning the product availed the product should be provided.

Lifting Quotes.

There has also been a question whether lifting quotes from sites doing online reviews such as Service Magic, Google Plus, and Yelp can be done. The TOS (Terms of Service) of the reviews or user-generated content might indicate they are owned by the individual who might have written them. Using the reviews without their prior permission might be infringing copyright laws. Always err on the side of caution and thoroughly investigate TOS before posting those reviews somewhere other than its original location.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues for your business and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.

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