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FTC warns advertisers to keep mobile ads clear and truthful

March 12, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • The Federal Trade Commission is reminding advertisers to abide by consumer protection laws when advertising on mobile devices.
The Federal Trade Commission is reminding advertisers to abide by consumer… (Antonov Mladen / AFP/Getty…)

SAN FRANCISCO -- With consumers increasingly connecting to the Internet on their phones and tablet computers, advertisers got a reminder from the federal government Tuesday that they must still abide by consumer protection laws when putting ads on mobile devices.

The rules that apply to ads in newspapers, radio and television also apply to ads on mobile devices and social media, the Federal Trade Commission said, warning that it would take enforcement action against companies that violate consumer protection laws.

The reference to mobile ads came in an update to a set of FTC guidelines called "Dot Com Disclosures." It was the first update to the guidelines since 2000, long before mobile devices and social media became so popular.

Online advertisers must make "clear and conspicuous" product disclosures on all devices including those with smaller screens, the FTC said. Advertisers should avoid pop-up windows and hyperlinks to convey critical information such as product costs or health and safety issues, it said. When used, hyperlinks should be labeled as specifically as possible and should function on all devices.

"Advertisers are responsible for ensuring that their messages are truthful and not deceptive," the agency said.

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