FTC Moves to Apply Consumer Protection to Web Ads

The Federal Trade Commission published a proposal regarding the applicability of its consumer protection rules to electronic media, including the Internet, e-mail, and CD-ROMs.

The proposal seeks public comments to initiate a dialogue with the goal of
formulating a formal policy statement. The FTC said it wants to clarify that
while most offline rules apply online, a policy statement, based on public
comment, would reduce any uncertainty.

“The Internet’s development as a commercial medium is transforming the global
marketplace–carrying with it the potential to provide enormous benefits to
consumers,” said Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer

“In order to ensure its potential, however, consumers need to know the extent to which consumer protections that apply in the offline world also apply to the Internet. This proposal is the first step in developing clear guidance about how the law will apply to online advertising and commercial transactions.”

The FTC said an Enforcement Policy Statement would describe how and why many
of the commission’s consumer protection rules and guides apply to advertising
and marketing on electronic media. The rules and guides cover some 40 subjects ranging from environmental marketing claims to credit practices.

In addition, the proposal also would provide guidance regarding how
disclosures should be made in electronic media advertising. Many rules and
guides require or recommend that material information be disclosed to
consumers to prevent deception.

Submission of comments is requested by July 7, 1998 and should be submitted to the Secretary of the Federal Trade Commission, Room H-159, Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580, or by e-mail to
[email protected].

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