FTC To Revisit Dot Com Disclosures

The Federal Trade Commission’s Dot Com Disclosure guidelines, first issued in 2000 and updated in March 2013, have explained how to make consumer disclaimers on various digital platforms. The FTC has just announced that it is seeking to modernize the guidelines and its press release says it all – FTC Looks to Modernize Its Guidance on Preventing Digital Deception: As Companies Wrongly Invoke the Guide to Justify Deception, Agency Seeks Public Input on Possible Revisions Around Dark Patterns and Other Deceptive Tactics.

“We know that some companies are wrongly citing our current guides to justify dark patterns and other forms of digital deception,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We are looking to update the guides to make clear that online tricks and traps will not be tolerated, and we look forward to hearing from the public on this initiative.”

The FTC announcement identified the following areas for which it is seeking public comment through August 2, 2022:

  • the use of sponsored and promoted advertising on social media;
  • advertising embedded in games and virtual reality and microtargeted advertisements;
  • the ubiquitous use of dark patterns, manipulative user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps, and in digital advertising that pose unique risks to consumers;
  • whether the current guidance adequately addresses advertising on mobile devices;
  • whether additional guidance is needed to reflect the multi-party selling arrangements involved in online commerce and affiliate marketing arrangements;
  • how the guidance on the use of hyperlinks can be strengthened to better protect consumers; and
  • the adequacy of online disclosures when consumers must navigate multiple webpages;

This is one of a number of initiatives the FTC is undertaking to tackle dark patterns and digital deception, including issuing a click-to-cancel policy statementproposing strengthened advertising guidelines against fake and manipulated reviews, arming staff with new tools to investigate dark patterns, and authorizing a Notice of Penalty Offense against deceptive reviews.