Posted April 26, 2011 6:16 pm by with 2 comments

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If you spend anytime following the news on the web you’ve seen the ads. They look like newspaper articles and many even feature the logos of CNN, USAToday and. . . oh, look. . there’s one right there!

Even though they do say “advertorial” on them and they are found in sidebars where banner ads usually hang out, people still think they’re legitimate news sources, so they click and they buy the diet product that is hawked at the end of it all. The FTC says no more. They’ve gone to court to stop ten companies who produce these phony ads and they want to force them refund the money to consumers who fell for the claims.

The FTC charges that the defendants:

  • make false and unsupported claims that acai berry supplements will cause rapid and substantial weight loss;
  • deceptively represent that:
    • their websites are objective news reports;
    • independent tests demonstrate the effectiveness of the product, and
    • comments following the “articles” on their websites reflect the views of independent consumers; and
  • fail to disclose their financial relationships to the merchants selling the products.

The combination is pretty damning, but what if you separated these claims? Would it be alright to create a phony news site complete with fake comments if the facts were true? Couldn’t that just be seen as creative license?

The FTC is also going after them for not disclosing the fact that it’s an affiliate deal.

“The defendants receive commissions when consumers buy the products or sign up for “free trials” on the product-selling sites – but they fail to adequately disclose their lack of objectivity and their financial incentive to get consumers to buy the products.

In total, it all falls under the heading of deceptive advertising and I get that. But you do have to wonder how so many people can be taken in by what is so blatantly an advertisement. According to the FTC, the companies involved have paid out more than $10 million to run these ads, so it’s likely that they’re pocketing a lot more.

Apparently, many people do believe everything they read on the internet.

  • Glad to hear that the FTC is taking action. There have been numerous advertisements about car insurance in Cincinnati, claiming rates as low as $10 per month which is a complete fabrication.

  • this is long overdue. has the ftc been sleeping on it? only in america do businesses have license to deceive consumers and do it for such a long time and get away with it. the point here is should people believe the news? if they shouldn’t, well, what should we believe in anymore? if the ‘advertorials’ are made to look like authentic news, you got to be very smart to say ‘wait a minute’. the first time that I saw these ‘articles’, out of curiosity, I read one but it was apparent to me that it was a scheme. bottom line is more oversight should be exercised to protect consumers. that’s what they’re paying the government for. if they can’t do it, let them disband and you become a self-governing nation!!!