Testimonials – Yes, There Are Laws About How To Use Testimonials

Testimonials are one of the best ways of sharing the benefits of your products or services with potential customers, but there are rules you must obey.

It might seem obvious to you, but your testimonials must be real. That is a real comment from a real person, freely given.

Did you know that there have been court cases against people who have posted "testimonials" about their own products on either their own, or other people's websites? It's called "misleading and deceptive conduct".

I've just been doing a little online research and came across this promise –

"New push button software creates powerful, easy, and convincing testimonials in just second!"

The advertising around that product then goes on to say that it is only for busy people who've been asked to provide testimonials for every man and his dog, and don't have the time or energy to think too hard about putting something unique together in answer to each request. 

That sounds fair enough, but really, you can see the temptation for people promoting online to just generate a couple of testimonials to add in to their advertising? Be tempted, but don't do it!

In all of the major english speaking markets around the world there are laws about the way you can use testimonials.

The fundamental requirements are:

  • testimonials must be real (not written by you with a made up name)
  • testimonials must not edited to change the meaning of what was actually said
  • testimonials must not represent that a product or service has performance characteristics, accessories, uses or benefits that it does not have
  • testimonials must not suggest that you have a sponsorship, approval or affiliation that you do not have
  • testimonials must not exaggerate the need for goods or services

What does this mean for you, practically speaking?

YESYou can ask people to provide you with testimonials

NO – You cannot ask/ pay/ bribe people to make up false testimonials for you

YES – You can help people to write a testimonial for you. What you need to do is get their final approval of the words used and their agreement that what you have written is what they mean.

YES – You can edit testimonials that you are given, as long as you do not change the meaning and you ask the person giving the testimonial to agree that they are happy with the editted version.

NO – You cannot publish testimonials that make out that your product or service is better/ different to what it really is.

In the United States since December 2009 there have been much more onerous rules that you have to meet, we'll talk about those in a later post.

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2 Responses to “Testimonials – Yes, There Are Laws About How To Use Testimonials”

  1. Rick Stanton October 2, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Question; I have several testimonials on our website, quite common for the service we offer. (Training Company). Recently I have been asked / demanded to remove a testimonial because a clients employee/Quality Engineer who wrote the testimonial was terminated. Is there a law in Florida stating that post a termination, an employer can demand the removal a testimonial written by the terminated employee from a suppliers website???

    I look forward to your reply,

    Best regards,

    Rick

    • Jeanette Jifkins May 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

      If you obtain permission for the use of testimonials and make it clear that you have no obligation to remove it, then you don’t have to comply.
      Also, where the testimonial is from a person, then only that person can seek your cooperation in removing the post.
      The question is around copyright and who owns it. Where a testimonial is too short to attract copyright, then it may need to be trade marked (eg Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ for anyone to have any authority.
      I would politely tell the former employer they have no authority to support their request. They review it from a relationship perspective and decide whether or not it could create unnecessary problems in the future.

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