The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) is keeping members abreast of possible changes by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its online disclosures guidance that would affect advertising and selling products on the Internet.
On May 30, RVDA’s Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Brett Richardson attended an FTC full-day workshop in Washington, entitled “Advertising and Privacy Disclosures in the Digital World.” According to RVDA, the workshop was intended to provide guidance to the public concerning the FTC’s advertising requirements and to solicit input from the public for updates to the FTC’s existing online advertising guidelines, “Dot Com Disclosures” (DCD).
The original FTC guidelines were developed in 2000 as the Internet was just coming of age, and before the advent of social networking along with smart phones and their apps. “What a difference a decade makes. When Dot Com Disclosures was issued, who could have imagined the world we live in now?” said FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen.
The FTC is expected to formulate new guidelines and RVDA and its allies, including the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA), will actively work to make any new rules “as least onerous as possible” for motor vehicle dealers.
It appears the FTC will be addressing some new areas in its upcoming guidelines. Generally speaking, the FTC will likely address two broad categories impacted by new technology: (1) what is expressed and (2) what is collected. How do traditional “clear and conspicuous” standards play out on a small mobile device such as a smartphone? How can advertisers effectively disseminate disclosures on such devices?
A greater concern expressed by the FTC and consumer groups is the development of consumer online (and sometimes offline) behavior tracking. This permits advertisers to customize specific ads to targeted consumers, which might be very profitable for companies selling this data, but a consumer privacy nightmare. RVDA reported that there was talk about the FTC pushing industry to develop a framework for implementing do-not-track mechanisms that would allow Web users to opt out of behavioral targeting and other online data-collection across a broad network of advertising firms.
The FTC hosted several panels on various subjects related to online advertising. However, it seems that most panelists and the FTC itself would prefer to see that industry self-regulate itself by creating best practices for online disclosures.