Are you writing copy for other people?
Did you know that consumer protection laws have always applied?
What’s consumer protection?
Consumer protection laws are essentially laws that say you, as the copywriter, or your client as the business owner, are in a much better position to know what you are talking about than any customer out there. If you write web copy that includes wild claims, then chances are that a customer could be misled.
This is pretty serious stuff. The old adage “the customer is always right” has been taken to a new level. The way it works under consumer protection laws is that the customer is never responsible if something goes wrong.
It’s Your fault if the customer believes something about your product that is NOT TRUE
Some people have heard me use the example of Ribena before. Ribena said that their blackcurrent drink contained more vitamin C than oranges and a school girl’s chemistry experiment proved that claim wrong. You see, it was sales copy. It sounded good. No one really worried about whether or not it was true. Harmless, right? Ribena paid large fines and spent hundreds of thousands changing all of its marketing material and publishing remedial advertising.
Have you written some website copy that could be considered misleading?
If you wrote web copy for others, I hope you have good disclaimers in your contract for hire. If you are using a website copywriter, I hope you’re not making promises you can’t keep!
Easy way to check? Go through your copy and highlight anything you don’t have facts or figures to back up. Interesting exercise, huh?
Some specific website copy that is being targetted for extra attention now are things like:
- limited time only (when its not)
- worth $97 but today $47… (where the product has never been sold for more than $47)
- pop-ups with upsells
- videos and testimonials containing an actual customer telling their actual story (without written confirmation from the person making the testimonial that it is in fact true)
- as seen on tv (without reference to which station and when)
- major brand logos (without written authorisation)
Have a look at the detailed guidelines published by Clickbank (seller of online information products) for more detail.
The Legal Essentials Program includes a checklist of essential elements to be included in a copywriters’ contract (whether you write copy or hire someone to do it for you), and a template agreement so that you can see what a stardard agreement could look like.