15 Sep 23

Responding to FTC Investigations of Influencers

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Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 04:04 am

Responding to FTC Investigations of Influencers

Hey there! If you’re an influencer who’s been contacted by the FTC about your social media posts, don’t panic. I know it can be scary to get a letter from a government agency, but there are steps you can take to respond appropriately. As an influencer myself, I’ve been through this process, and I’m here to walk you through it.

What to Do If You Get an FTC Letter

First off, take a deep breath. You’ll likely have only 30 days to respond, so try not to freak out. Immediately consult with legal counsel experienced in FTC matters – they can help guide your response. Don’t try to handle this solo!

Next, pull together documentation on your sponsored and non-sponsored posts related to the products in question. The FTC will want to see evidence about your connection (or lack thereof) to the brands. Gather screenshots, contracts, emails, etc. showing how the posts came about.

Be prepared to explain your understanding of the FTC’s endorsement guidelines. They’ll want to know you’re taking disclosure seriously moving forward. Come clean about any compliance gaps – transparency and cooperation goes a long way.

Draft your response letter carefully. Stick to the facts and keep it professional. Your lawyer can ensure you hit the right tone. Send supporting documentation as attachments.

It may also help to review the FTC’s FAQ page on endorsements and disclosures. Educate yourself so you can have an informed discussion about your social media practices.

Avoiding FTC Issues in the First Place

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to FTC matters. As an influencer, you can steer clear of problems by:

  • Clearly disclosing sponsored content, including hashtags like #ad or #sponsored
  • Being transparent about free products you receive, including their value
  • Only making claims you can back up
  • Distinguishing your opinions from objective facts
  • Avoiding statements that might mislead consumers about your connection to a brand

It’s also wise to keep up with the latest FTC guidelines and enforcement actions in the influencer space. Stay educated on your legal responsibilities.

What Happens If You Violate FTC Rules?

For minor or accidental violations of endorsement rules, the FTC will likely just issue a warning letter as a first step. But repeated or egregious violations can warrant formal legal action.

In 2017, the FTC filed its first complaint against individual influencers, accusing them of failing to disclose they were paid to promote a gambling site (see here). The proposed settlement banned them from misleading endorsements and required disclosure compliance monitoring for 20 years.

The bottom line: Take FTC endorsement guidelines seriously. They have teeth, and ignorance is no excuse. It’s not worth risking your reputation and career over lax disclosure practices. Stay transparent with your audience.

How to Appeal an FTC Decision

If you disagree with an FTC decision against you, don’t panic – you have options. Here are some ways to appeal:

  • Request an administrative hearing to present evidence defending your actions
  • Propose your own alternate settlement if you believe the initial terms are unfair
  • File a federal lawsuit against the FTC challenging their ruling
  • Petition the FTC Commissioners to review the decision (though they rarely overturn staff judgements)

An experienced legal team can advise you on the best approach based on your specific circumstances. But know that the FTC doesn’t take appeals lightly – you’ll need a rock-solid case to get them to reverse course.

In Closing…

Dealing with an FTC investigation is no fun, but handling it above-board can save your reputation. Be cooperative, disclose properly moving forward, and keep educating yourself on the rules. We’re all learning as influencer marketing evolves!

Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions. We influencers need to stick together when it comes to murky legal issues like this. Stay safe out there in the wild world of social media!