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FTC’s New Rules on Deceptive Endorsements, Reviews and UGC

FTC’s New Rules on Deceptive Endorsements, Reviews and UGC

Online endorsements and reviews often influence consumer choices, so ensuring transparency and honesty in advertising practices is paramount. Companies that engage in deceptive tactics not only harm consumers but also create unfair competition for those who play by the rules. Recognizing the evolving landscape of technology and marketing, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken significant steps to combat deceptive practices by announcing new rules and revisions to existing guidelines.

BrandLens is committed to authenticity and transparency in user-generated content (UGC). With the FTC’s new rules on deceptive endorsements and reviews, we’re at a pivotal point in digital marketing, where the values we champion align with regulatory expectations.

This article delves into these new guidelines, underlining their significance for platforms like BrandLens that facilitate UGC. By understanding and adhering to these rules, we not only comply with the law but also reinforce our commitment to genuine, trustworthy content creation.

Final Revised FTC Endorsement Guides:

The FTC has announced final revisions to the Endorsement Guides, which provide crucial advice for businesses on the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. These revisions aim to reflect current advertising trends and address emerging challenges in the digital sphere. Key changes include:


  • Introduction of principles prohibiting the manipulation of consumer reviews to distort product perceptions.
  • Guidelines on incentivized reviews, reviews by employees, and fake negative reviews.
  • Definition of “clear and conspicuous” disclosures, especially relevant in the era of social media.
  • Expanded definition of “endorsements” to encompass fake reviews and virtual influencers.
  • Clarification of potential liability for advertisers, endorsers, and intermediaries.
  • Emphasis on child-directed advertising concerns.


a girl shooting a UGC video with her phone

Proposed Rule on the Use of Consumer Reviews and Testimonials:

In addition to revising the Endorsement Guides, the FTC is proposing a new Rule on the Use of Consumer Online Reviews and Testimonials. This rule aims to combat deceptive practices involving consumer reviews and testimonials, including:

  • Prohibition of selling or obtaining fake consumer reviews and testimonials.
  • Ban on review hijacking, wherein reviews are repurposed for different products.
  • Prohibition of buying positive or negative reviews.
  • Requirement for clear disclosures of insider reviews and testimonials.
  • Ban on creating or controlling review websites claiming independence.
  • Prohibition of illegal review suppression and selling fake social media indicators.

Updated Staff Guidance:

The FTC has also updated its guidance publication, FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking, to address emerging questions on influencers, material disclosures, and review-related issues.

Why These Rules Matter:

These initiatives from the FTC signify a commitment to protecting consumers and promoting fair competition in the marketplace. By setting clear standards and enforcing penalties for deceptive practices, these rules empower consumers to make informed choices and level the playing field for honest businesses. Moreover, these efforts underscore the FTC’s adaptability to technological advancements and evolving marketing strategies.

Here, is a guide to using UGC legally, safely, and effectively, addressing common questions and offering practical recommendations.

1. Do I Need Permission for UGC?

Yes, permission is crucial before using any UGC, especially if it’s for commercial purposes or outside the platform’s terms of service. You can use UGC even beyond social media, but before that, you need to ask yourself if the content will be used for profit or taken out of its original platform context. If yes, seek permission from the creator and any individuals depicted in the content.

2. How Do I Get Permission to Use Content?

Contact the content owner directly or utilize resources like the Copyright Clearance Center for professional content. Provide proper attribution, including links to the original source, and ensure transparency in your usage. Remember, attention to detail can mitigate risks associated with copyright infringement.

3. Compensating the Creator

While compensation may not always be necessary, acknowledging and crediting the creator is essential. For high-profile creators, consider offering perks such as free products, exclusive experiences, or increased recognition. Recognition by a beloved brand can often be compensation enough for many creators.

4. Fair Use and Copyright

Understanding fair use principles is crucial. Factors such as nonprofit use, factual content, minimal usage, and negligible market impact may constitute fair use. However, commercial use or repeated distribution without permission may violate copyright laws.

5. Penalties for Copyright Violation

Copyright infringement can result in legal consequences, ranging from cease-and-desist letters to statutory damages. Penalties vary based on factors like the extent of infringement and awareness of copyright protection. Compliance with copyright laws is imperative to avoid legal repercussions.

6. Sponsored Content

When collaborating with influencers or celebrities for sponsored content, adhere to FTC guidelines. Require clear disclosures such as #ad or #sponsored in social media posts and ensure explicit disclosure within video content. Transparency builds trust with consumers and mitigates potential legal risks.

Some actionable tips

To ensure compliance with the FTC’s revised guidelines, here are some actionable tips for businesses and content creators:

  • Explicit Permissions: Always obtain clear permission for using UGC, especially when the content is for commercial use or extends beyond the original platform. Document this permission for future reference.
  • Transparent Disclosures: When endorsements or sponsored content are involved, make disclosures clear and conspicuous. This is crucial in social media, where disclosures can be overlooked.
  • Review Management: Monitor and manage reviews honestly. Avoid the temptation to delete negative reviews or fabricate positive ones. Encourage genuine feedback from customers.
  • Employee and Insider Guidelines: If employees or insiders are reviewing your products or services, their connection to your company must be disclosed in their reviews.
  • Dealing with Negative Reviews: Rather than suppressing negative feedback, use it constructively to improve your offerings and customer service.
  • Educational Resources: Offer training or resources for your team and network on these guidelines, ensuring everyone represents your brand responsibly.

Schedule a demo and see how easy it is to co-create with your customers on BrandLens!