Testimonials and endorsements can be great for promoting your business or product, whether you include them on your website or send them out through social media.
However, if you use reviews, testimonials, or endorsements for your online business or in social media, you need to use an appropriate disclaimer so that you comply with existing laws.
Read on to learn what a testimonial disclaimer is and when you need one. You can also let our quick and easy disclaimer generator create one for you.
1. What Is a Testimonial Disclaimer?
A testimonial disclaimer is a statement that’s placed on a website, app, or social media page to tell readers that their experience may not be the same as what’s described in a review or endorsement.
The document states that a review describes only one person’s experience and is not a guarantee, promise, or reflection of the feelings of every user.
If you post endorsements or testimonials that have been paid for in any way, that information must be disclosed.
2. Do You Need a Testimonial Disclaimer?
You are required by law to include a testimonial disclaimer if your website or app displays user reviews or endorsements — whether users post them directly or not.
There are several situations in which you need to provide such a policy:
- Your website or app includes reviews or endorsements for your products or services
- You pay people for reviews or testimonials
- You pay people to make social media posts endorsing or recommending your product, business, or service
- You give someone a free product in exchange for a review
- Users are otherwise compensated for giving their opinions on the product or service — this includes offering discounts, deals, or entering them into a sweepstakes
Ultimately, if there is a relationship between you and the endorser (the person providing the review) that the average consumer would be interested in knowing about, you should disclose this information in a disclaimer.
3. Applicable Laws
Testimonials can be extremely effective in persuading potential customers to buy your product or service. In fact, over 86% of consumers say that reviews are an essential resource when making purchasing decisions. They hold a lot of power, and for this reason need to be regulated.
There are several laws that apply to these situations:
Fair Trade Commission Act
Testimonial disclaimers in the US are governed by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Fair Trade Commission Act. Failure to comply with the law requiring these disclosures can result in civil fines or criminal prosecution.
The FTC says full disclosure is required if there is a connection between the endorser and the company. “Connection” is not properly defined, but if there is an obligation for the user to submit an endorsement, review, or provide an opinion — implied or otherwise — this connection must be disclosed.
To stay compliant with the Fair Trade Commission Act, there are a few guidelines you must follow:
- A full disclosure is required whenever customers are compensated or considered for compensation by providing a review
- Disclosures must be clear and conspicuous — that is, easy to read and close to the claims that are being made
- A full disclosure must be made if the experience depicted in a review is not typical
- A disclosure is required when a company employee gives a review
- If a celebrity endorses your product or service, that celebrity must be an actual user of the product or service
- If a professional endorses your product or service, the professional’s qualifying credentials must be disclosed in full
It’s important to stay on the right side of FTC guidelines by providing an appropriate disclaimer on your website or application.
United States Copyright Act
User-submitted testimonials can be considered “literary works” under United States Copyright Law. Thus, it is essential that you get consent to publish these works.
This can be done by simply requiring users to check a box which states that they acknowledge the terms, and give their consent to publish their content.
Failure to do so can result in substantial civil fines or even criminal charges.
California Online Privacy Protection Act
While California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) relates more to privacy policies than disclaimers, it’s important to consider whether personal information is collected and/or published when users give reviews or testimonials.
Users often include their names, email addresses, and/or photos when submitting reviews. These are all considered personally identifiable information under CalOPPA.
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act (2008) is a UK law aimed at protecting consumers from misleading and unfair practices. The law is applicable to websites and applications that can be accessed by users within the United Kingdom.
Misleading practices include those that cause consumers to make transactional decisions they would not have otherwise made. These can include testimonials that have been given by users who were compensated in some way, as the testimonies are considered biased.
The deletion, editing, or omission of reviews and user-provided content can also be determined as misleading practices.
To stay safe and compliant with this law, it’s best to disclose any manipulation of these works as well as any connection with the endorsers.
4. Testimonial Disclaimer Guidelines
Follow these guidelines to ensure your testimonial disclaimer provides your website or app the protection it needs.
According to the FTC, a disclosure must be clear and conspicuous. The FTC recommends you keep these things in mind:
- The disclosure should be located as close as possible to the claim being made on your site
- It’s best not to require the user to scroll in order to locate the disclosure
- It’s allowable to link to a disclosure, but the link must be obvious, close to the claim, and take consumers directly to the disclosure
- The disclosure should be clear and conspicuous no matter what device the consumer is viewing it on
- If the testimonial is made by video, the disclosure has to appear on the screen and remain long enough that it can be read
- Place the disclosure so that it appears before the customer gets to the shopping cart
- The disclosure should be noticeable, which means it can’t be in a smaller font or a lighter color than the rest of the page
- The disclosure should be in language that is easily understandable for most readers
- Repeat the disclosure throughout your site so it can easily be found
- It’s best not to hide the disclosure in your Terms and Conditions — it should be placed separately in a Disclaimer section on your site
- Incorporating an audio disclosure will ensure that all users can access it
- Make sure the disclosure appears on screen long enough for users to read it in its entirety
- If an employee of yours creates an endorsement, you must disclose that the person is in fact an employee — the same holds true for shareholders and anyone with a vested interest in your company
- If someone provides a review for your product in exchange for a free copy, this must be disclosed within the review or testimonial
- If compensation of any kind is given in exchange for reviews or social media shares, this must be disclosed
- Reviews and social media shares given for discounts need to be clearly marked as ads (#ad is the common way to handle this)
The FTC also believes that it’s an advertiser’s responsibility to see what people are saying about their product and how they are saying it.
If bloggers are endorsing a product you’ve given them for free on their own blogs — not even your site — but are not disclosing that the product was given in exchange for a review, you could still be held responsible.
Always follow up and be sure people in your network are complying with the law when it comes to endorsing your product or service.
5. Testimonial Disclaimer Examples
Let’s take a look at a few notable examples of testimonial disclaimers:
Designer Floors is a flooring company out of Boise, Idaho. The company has a dedicated testimonials page on its website. It also provides a link to its relevant disclaimer in the footer of every page.
The company very succinctly describes how results may vary, even considering past results. It also states that the endorsers have not been compensated for their testimonials.
Google outlines its requirements for reviews in a dedicated “Review Policies” section.
The company explicitly states that it will remove any reviews that don’t comply with a certain set of guidelines. The one depicted above outlines the issue of conflict of interest.
If reviewers have received any compensation for their reviews, Google will remove it accordingly.
SlimFast is a company that markets weight-loss shakes and other dietary supplement foods. As with any potentially appearance-altering product or service, individual results may vary. SlimFast does a nice job of making this clear to users.
On its “Success Stories” page, the company places very visible text under the main image stating that individual results may vary. It does not, however, say whether the testimonials were paid for or if the customers were compensated in any way.
The footer of every page also contains the same disclaimer. Not only does it state that individual results may vary, but also states that the results are based on the SlimFast diet plan.
Triangle Facial Plastic Surgery
Triangle is a plastic surgery clinic located in North Carolina. The company has provided a testimonial disclaimer to protect themselves from claims of varied experiences. It can be found in the footer of every page.
It is stated in very clear English that results may vary, and that the experiences depicted on the site are not typical. Triangle also goes on to say that the testimonials were provided voluntarily, and the endorsers were not compensated for their reviews.
6. Next Steps
If you post testimonial disclaimers on your website, app, or social media page, make sure you also have a dedicated disclaimer that’s linked throughout your site.