I spoke with Richard Cleland this morning. I shared with him my concerns. I think that the enforcement of the rules are still in the developmental stage. Cleland reiterated what he told other blogs that this is the educational period. I don’t see the FTC regulations being revised, but apparently there is some room for crafting guidelines for enforcement.
I suggested a warning and opportunity to cure and Cleland liked that idea. He said that they have used it in the past in the health product field except they are called advisory letters.
I asked about the issue of the fines. Cleland stated that this is something the AP took out of context. The FTC has no ability to levy fines. A charge must be made and taken to an administrative law judge and a cease and desist is requested and provided if the FTC fulfills its burden. If the C&D is ignored, then a civil penalty can be requested for up to $11,000.00. The full explanation of enforcement and penalties for all FTC violations can be read here.
No case would be brought in federal court unless it involved a very serious fraud else the FTC would likely be frowned upon by the court for wasting judicial time.
We discussed the issue of Twitter and whether each and every positive statement about a book that had been received for review would need to carry a disclaimer. Cleland was of the opinion that it would however we did discuss the issue of the product itself. In many other industries, the review product is nearly always returned and not kept by the reviewer. In the book industry, it is common for all reviewers, regardless of whether they review for mainstream publications or whether they review for a personal blog, to keep the books that are reviewed. I also brought up the issue of e-arcs and how any blogger could prove that the product had been deleted or kept.
I’m fairly certain that Cleland is not familiar with the book industry or the book blogging industry. He certainly was open to hearing more from us. I plan to continue to discuss this issue with him.