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Electronic Media Policy Statement Released May 6, 2000
FTC File No. P974102edia Policy Statement

"The Federal Trade Commission today published a proposal regarding the applicability of the Commission's rules and guides to electronic media, including the Internet, e-mail and CD-ROMs. The proposal, announced today in a Federal Register notice, seeks public comments to initiate a dialogue on the issues with the goal of formulating a formal policy statement. The Commission's purpose is to clarify that while most offline rules apply online, a policy statement, based on public comment, would reduce any uncertainty as to how they apply to the electronic media. 

"The Internet's development as a commercial medium is transforming the global marketplace -- carrying with it the potential to provide enormous benefits to consumers," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "In order to ensure its potential, however, consumers need to know the extent to which consumer protections that apply in the offline world also apply to the Internet. This proposal is the first step in developing clear guidance about how the law will apply to online advertising and commercial transactions. The Commission's experience has been that formal policy guidance generally results in voluntary compliance by industry."

"According to industry surveys, 62 million people in the United States, now have access to the Internet, making it a popular medium for advertising goods and services and for conducting commercial transactions. It is estimated that businesses spent $906.5 million for advertising on the Internet in 1997. These advertisements may contain text, pictures, video, sound, interactive graphics or a combination of all of these features. In addition to using the Internet to advertise their products, businesses also use CD-ROMs and e-mail to disseminate information about their products to consumers. 

"An Enforcement Policy Statement would describe how and why many of the Commission's consumer protection rules and guides apply to advertising and marketing on electronic media. The rules and guides cover some 40 subjects ranging from environmental marketing claims to credit practices. Uncertainty about the applicability of the rules and guides to electronic media may currently exist because of the use of terms, such as "written," that may more commonly be associated with print media. The understanding of the term "written" and other terms has evolved with the use of new technology. Therefore, the Commission's proposal would clarify that, when used in the rules and guides, the term "written" refers to information that is capable of being preserved in a tangible form and read. The Commission's proposal also discusses how electronic media could be used to comply with the rules and guides.

"In addition, the proposal also would provide guidance regarding how disclosures should be made in electronic media advertising. Many rules and guides require or recommend that material information be disclosed to consumers to prevent deception. Internet advertising contains unique features that raise new issues in making disclosures effectively. The proposal discusses the factors the Commission would consider in evaluating the effectiveness of disclosures and solicits comment on these issues."

Barriers to E-Commerce

" The Department of Commerce, on behalf of the Subgroup on Legal Barriers to Electronic Commerce ("Legal Barriers Subgroup") of the U.S. Government Working Group on Electronic Commerce, requests public comments and suggestions concerning policies, laws or regulations that need to be adapted in order to eliminate barriers to and promote electronic commerce, electronic services, and electronic transactions."

  • Fed Reg. Notice
  • Comments Filed
  • Comment period closed April 24
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