FTC to celebs: you are responsible for what you’re hawking

As I delve further into this whole FTC mess and their new guidelines, which you can download and read all 81 pages yourself, one thing is clear – celebrities are screwed. Now whether or not the FTC guides were this blunt before I can’t speak to all I can do is point to what the document refers to as being new.

From the FTC document (page 19 and page 20)

The Commission is not persuaded that a celebrity endorser’s contractual obligation to
read the script he or she is given should confer immunity from liability for misrepresentations made in the course of that endorsement. The celebrity has decided to earn money by providing an endorsement. With that opportunity comes the responsibility for the celebrity or his or her legal representative to ensure in advance that the celebrity does not say something that does not “reflect [his or her] honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience.” See 16 CFR 255.1(a).

Furthermore, because celebrity endorsers are liable for what they say, not for the rest of the
advertisement, their lack of control over the final version of a commercial does not warrant the
immunity sought by the commenters. Nor are they required to become experts on the product or the industry, although they may have an obligation to make reasonable inquiries of the advertiser that there is an adequate basis for assertions that the script has them making.

So in other words all those celebrity endorsers of products or services can’t hide behind “they were just reading a script” as a protection from any potential lawsuits or fines from the FTC.

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I wonder how many celeb lawyers are going over all those million dollar contracts right now hoping that they comply with the new guidelines?