Parenting Blogs May Be Held Liable for Product Reviews

A potential change in FTC regulations would expose parenting blogs.

ByABC News
April 9, 2009, 5:32 PM

April 13, 2009 — -- Mommy blogger Colleen Padilla never imagined that her opinions would become so coveted by other parents that corporations would come knocking on her door, requesting that she review their products and tout them in the blogosphere.

She launched her blog,, as a way to chronicle her life as a new mom but it quickly transformed into a small business venture for the Philadelphia mom of two.

In the past three years, Padilla has reviewed more than 1,000 products, everything from diapers to plush toys to infant-safe skin creams, to the delight of the growing parenting community that she says considers a stamp of approval from fellow parents to be the final word.

But, now, Padilla and the estimated hundreds of thousands of fellow parenting bloggers may be in danger of being sued if the government approves a change in its policy regarding endorsements of products by Web pundits.

"I'm nervous; my Web site and blog is almost entirely product reviews, either written posts or video reviews that incorporate my children testing, trying or using products," Padilla told

"I've got over 1,000 products in my product finder, so this is alarming news that I may be held liable for my opinion," Padilla said

A regulatory review process is underway to determine whether reviews by bloggers like Padilla may be in violation of good business practices, said Richard Cleland, a spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission.

"The proposed revisions signal that the commission will apply existing principles of advertising law to new forms of media, like blogs," Cleland said, adding that a decision on the proposal is expected sometime this summer.

"These types of communications that appear to be just one mom to another mom are pretty effective," he said. "Consumer endorsements and testimonials have always been viewed as extremely effective types of marketing.

"But the concern is about those instances when [testimonials] are delivered and it is not made obvious that it's an advertisement for a company."

Whether these revisions, should they happen, will affect particular bloggers will depend on their relationship to the company whose product they're promoting, Cleland said. If a blogger reviews items in return for payment or free products, they may be held liable because the bloggers, unbeknown to their audiences, could be seen as shills for the companies.

"It would only affect bloggers who are paid to write reviews but the sticky issue that is raised is what happens if a product is given for free," Cleland said. "That's something we're going to have to address."