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Testimonial advertising crossing the line into deception, says NCL

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Stricter rules on consumer and expert endorsements, blogola, and fake news needed, says consumer group

Release Date: July 22, 2009
Contact: 202-835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WASHINGTON, DC –- Appearing today before a Senate subcommittee, the National Consumers League (NCL) called for stricter rules regarding the use of consumer and expert testimonials in advertising. The consumer group also urged lawmakers and regulators to strongly consider establishing guidelines regarding disclosure by bloggers and others of compensation received in return for product and service reviews online. The League also described as “extremely troubling,” the proliferation of advertising masquerading as real news.

“Now more than ever, consumers need to be assured that products and services advertised to them deliver on what they promise,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We believe that the overuse of consumer testimonials and expert endorsements has crossed the line from aggressive marketing to outright deception.”

The hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee’s consumer protection subcommittee was prompted by revisions being undertaken at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the agency’s guidelines regarding the use of consumer testimonials and expert endorsements in advertisements. Changes under consideration include requiring advertisers to prominently disclose average results when atypical results are shown, such as in diet pill commercials. Other changes would require that bloggers and other online reviewers disclose when they receive payment or gifts from advertisers in return for a review. NCL also urged regulators and lawmakers to investigate whether the undisclosed use of video news releases by news organizations should fall under the FTC’s testimonial advertising guidelines.

“We find the rampant lack of disclosure by broadcasters that they are being paid to air VNRs extremely troubling,” said Greenberg. “Citizens of a democratic society should have confidence that the media is not passing off advertisements as hard news.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.