Disclaimers (Disclosures) are the second most important thing you need to make sure you are doing right as a reviewer.  

disclaimer with magnifying glass
This morning a friend and I were discussing disclaimers, then right afterward I saw a post in a great new FB group that I have recently been invited to about the same subject.  A follower of my blog has also posted some interesting questions, one of which was about disclaimers.  So I realized I need to get back into gear and start sharing the gems of information I have learned about reviewing, especially about disclaimers.

First a tip:  I always write my reviews in Word, using a template.  It is easier for me to write on a larger page and Word helps with spelling and basic grammar. On the bottom of the template, I have several versions of the disclaimers I use. When I am done writing the main text of the review, I choose which disclaimer to use and delete the rest.  Now I am ready to copy and paste it into the review box on Amazon.  Not only is my review done, I have the added bonus of a backup copy.  Old habits from college and grad school die hard.

Having a copy of your reviews also makes them easy to transfer to blogs or share on social media.  You should never share directly from Amazon, more on that in a future post.

Keeping a copy of your reviews may also benefit you if Amazon deletes it or Amazon wipes your account.


What is a disclaimer?  

A disclaimer is generally any statement intended to specify or delimit the scope of rights and obligations that may be exercised and enforced by parties in a legally recognized relationship.  In our case, a disclaimer states that we have reviewed a product in an honest and unbiased way.  It also recognizes the fact that we did not pay full price for the product.

* One of the readers of this blog pointed out that the term we are discussing should be disclosure and he is correct.  I am continuing to use disclaimer because that is how it is commonly referred to by Reviewers in general. 

Do I have to include a disclaimer?

YES!  All reviews that you write in exchange for a discounted or free product must have the disclosure (commonly referred to as a disclaimer) prominently displayed.

From Amazon:   If you receive a free or discounted product in exchange for your review, you must clearly and conspicuously disclose that fact. For the full text in context, please see Customer Review Creation Guidelines.

If you fail to include a disclaimer, Amazon will remove your review once it is noted and your account could be flagged for monitoring and/or possible account removal. Yes, you can have your account wiped if you do not include a disclaimer.  The hope is that one infraction will not result in deletion but since nobody knows what the criteria are for account deletion, it is hard to say.

What does it mean by the word conspicuously?  It means that your disclaimer has to be clearly identifiable. Your best option is to put it at the bottom of your review.  If your disclaimer is the first thing readers see, they will often stop reading right there.

At first, I wanted to just blend my disclaimer into my narrative somewhere in the middle of the review.  I see Reviewers doing this often.  I think it is in the hopes that you can engage the reader with your words and they may not register the fact that you are a Reviewer or at least, won’t hold it against you.

What does a disclaimer have to include?

There are two main things your disclaimer should have.

First of all, there should be a reference to your integrity:  honest, truthful, impartial, unbiased.

Examples: I received this product in exchange for my honest and unbiased… All opinions expressed are genuinetruthful and impartial….

Secondly, the disclaimer MUST state that you received the product at a discounted price or for free. You cannot have a general disclaimer and it is not an and/or option.  Never include the exact price in your disclaimer, though. People who pay full price are not going to like seeing that.  Free and discount(ed) are what they are requiring.

This has been hard to nail down in all of Amazon’s legalese.  In order to confirm or deny the rumors, one individual was able to get a response from Amazon about this.  Here is a screenshot of her response from Amazon proving that they want you to distinguish between discounted and free.

Free versus discounted products in the disclaimer on Amazon

These are examples of disclaimers that do not follow Amazon TOS: “I received this product at a discount or free in exchange for my review.  Neither is this: ” I received this product for reviewing purposes.”  If you currently use one of these general types of disclaimers you should change it to something more specific.

small purple checkmark
Amazon wants you to be specific about whether or not you paid anything for it or if you got if for free.

 

 



Examples of disclaimers

I am going to share some of the common disclaimers I have seen and a few I use.  A good rule of thumb though is that you should try and make your disclaimer a little bit different than what you see other people using.  If you copy someone’s disclaimer word for word and are in the same review groups, this could bring unwanted attention to your account.  More about that in a future post, it is a lot to go into right now.  Whatever you do, do not make your disclaimer longer than your review.  For more information on this, please see Writing Reviews ~ What Makes a Good Review  My most used disclaimer is a long one, but I tend to write very long reviews. If you write short reviews, don’t use a long disclaimer. The point is you need to be unique while still making sure you include words about integrity and the correct pricing information.

I received this product for free to provide an honest review.

I received this product at a discount in return for my honest and unbiased review.

I received this product at a discount for the purposes of testing it and reviewing it.  All opinions expressed are truthful and 100% my own.

Here are examples of my disclaimers for products I received any kind of discount on:   

I received this product at a discount in return for providing my honest and unbiased review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

I received this product for free in return for providing my honest and unbiased review.  I received no other compensation. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

I ordered this Copper Moscow Mule Mug Set on Amazon and received it at a discount in return for providing my honest and unbiased review; which I have given to assist other consumers in making informed purchasing decisions. I received no other compensation.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

* My good friend, the very smart Ani Ruhama shared with me a while back the part about the FTC.  She thinks it may help to discourage downvotes, I like it because it makes me look smart 🙂

At this time, Amazon does not require that we add a disclaimer to full priced items or items we received as gifts. I like to do this because once you start reviewing if you don’t include a disclaimer in every review,  someone will think you forgot to add your disclaimer or that you are being purposely deceptive.   To differentiate between the two, I add a disclaimer by choice.  * Update:  A reply left on this article mentions the fact that the reviewer has recently heard from Amazon that they are going to start requiring them on full priced items.  I will try and follow up on this and see what I can find out. 

Here are examples of my disclaimers for products I paid full price for:

I ordered this Iron Man Snuggle blanket on Amazon and paid full price for it.  I enjoy being able to share my opinions and experiences with products to help other consumers in making informed purchasing decisions.

I ordered this Iron Man Halloween costume, from the same manufacturer, from a big box store and paid full price for it. I noticed this listing and took the opportunity to share my unique experience with other consumers in order to assist them in making informed purchasing decisions.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

* Note that this is something I didn’t order on Amazon.  Yes, you can write reviews for things not purchased on Amazon, Amazon even encourages it. Reviewers should strive for a balanced perspective that includes both discount and full price items, along with items you receive as gifts or have purchased elsewhere.

Here is an example of my disclaimer for products that were given to me as gifts:

I received this Kindle Fire 10″ Tablet for Christmas as a gift from my son.   He purchased it on Amazon and paid full price.  Since I have been wanting a new tablet for ages, I was excited to be able to share both my experience and my opinion regarding it with other consumers on Amazon. 



What do you put in your disclaimer?

disclaimer

I would love to hear back from you!  Please note that I do not claim to be an expert on everything about writing reviews or everything Amazon.  I only attempt to share what I have learned through experience, from other trusted reviewers, and from lots of research.  I am always open to discussion on any of the finer points.  In fact, I would welcome it.  Through sharing what we have learned, we can help educate each other on these finer points.



I almost forgot, did you notice that the first sentence of this article said that disclaimers were the second most important thing to make sure you are doing right?  What is the #1 thing you need to be sure you are doing as a review writer?  Note:  A contest was held and Deb K was the winner after an 8-way tie.  The #1 thing a reviewer needs to make sure they are doing is writing an honest review.



Right after I posted this on my FB page there was a very relevant statement made that even having a great disclaimer that follows Amazon’s TOS will not prevent you from being wiped from Amazon.  In fact, no one knows what Amazon considers when wiping accounts. My own view is that is a combination of an algorithm that scans their databases, consideration of the actual text in the reviews by a person, and perhaps drawing attention by being reported by someone. 

Disclaimers are only one of the many things that you need to be aware of as a review writer. Please check out my other articles about Writing Reviews ~ What Makes a Good Review with even more general information on this page, Product Reviews.

This part of my blog will continue to evolve over time.  I am not claiming to have all the answers,  I am just sharing what I have learned and opening it up for other people to ask questions about what they are interested in learning more about and information they would like to share.



 Remember, it’s all about the map we follow
and the treasures we find along the way.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope to see you back soon! ~ Lynn Marie White



35 Responses »

  1. What the product you are reviewing is
    What you liked about the product
    What you did not like about the product, sometimes referred to as the 3 W’s. I am going to go with the number 46 🙂

    Thank You very Much Lynn and Ani of course!!

    Love waht you ladies do for the reviewer community <3

    • Hi Lisa, I have really enjoyed your commentary and willingness to share every since I started this blog. Ani is great isn’t she! I will be sure to let her know what you said. Thanks for your answer and participating. Lynn Marie

  2. I currently ranked under 275 on amazon. Ive always used the following disclaimers to appease Amazons guidelines. “I received this product at a full promotional discount for my unbias and honest review in return.”

    If its a discounted item then I use “I received this product at a promotional discount for my unbias and honest review in return.”

    I dont use the word “free” because it creates negativity for the seller. What I mean by this is that if a full priced customer sees the word free, then they expect if they write the seller that they should get it free. Full promotional discount states that the seller only had a limited amount to provide for reviews.

    I tend not to use a really long disclaimer because it can be seen as fluff and duff. Amazon doesnt want your disclaimer to be hidden in the review and by putting a mile long disclaimer they could interpret it as hiding. I like mine to be short and to the point.

    I have seen some talk about how your account will get wiped even if you ahve disclaimers-that is simply not true. I have seen multiple accounts that dont use disclaimers and are still reviewing today. Alot of times what contributes to the wipes are if you upvote/downvote, have more than one person reviewing on an IP address, forgetting disclaimers (they do catch it sometimes), having more than one reviewer on an acct, etc. Sellers will sometimes have an upvoting campaign on your reviews which can lead to you getting wiped.

    Whats going to end up happening in the end is that Amazon is going to get rid of everyone that is NOT a VINE reviewer. Amazon will only let you review if you paid full price or a VINE reviewer-thats how they will end up being in control. The past few months have created an plethora of reviewers that really have no idea whats going on. Alot of them are in it to get free stuff which is a shame. Ive been doing this since 2007 on and off. I honestly think this might be my last year of doing it because of all the drama.

    • Hi, Thanks for coming by, I have enjoyed reading your comments. I like how you think. Wording can be so important and that is why I use opinion instead of review and return instead of in exchange. Did you notice that screenshot I had in the middle of the article from Amazon? I just went and enlarged the image for everyone because it was difficult to read. They have given us very specific ones they want us to use in that email. However, they have not published that specific information in their TOS.

      They can’t really hold us liable for not using those if it isn’t published on their site for everyone to see in the Review Creation Guidelines, or so we would like to think. We waived our rights to argue points like this by posting a review in the first place according to them. They can and do whatever they want. So we are caught in the middle. Do we comply with what we have read in unofficial channels or do we try to get around what they must surely use as keywords in their data gathering?

      You have a very good list of things that can get your account wiped. Sometimes you may not realize you have even done them or known that it was a violation. That is why I appreciate everyone pitching in and sharing what they have learned. Ani has a very good article too on what will get your account wiped, I should have her do a guest post.

      Amazon started letting customers write reviews because they wanted product recommendations, and in turn, they have a massive amount of data. Since there are so many reviewers now taking advantage of the system, and we can all see a great many of them who have no idea what they are doing or here for cheap and free products, one of the only options they have left is to use this data to get rid of accounts. We have only seen the beginning. Keywords, voting, rankings, word count, number of reviews, range of star counts given, number of each star count, number of purchases, number of discounted or free purchases, seller data in combination with ours, the list is endless.

      Are good reviewers going to get caught up in these nets, absolutely. The only thing we can do is share the information we have and make sure that we are each personally doing everything we can to follow the TOS, as vague as they purposely are.

      I think you may have meant in your one sentence to say that some people say that you won’t get your account wiped if your disclaimer is correct. If so, you are right. Having the correct disclaimer doesn’t protect you 100%. At this point, no one knows what protects you 100% or we would all be doing it. Again, it seems that Amazon is purposely vague so that they can take this time to clean out the ranks and reorganize.

      To enter the contest, what do you think is the number one thing a reviewer needs to do? Also choose a number between 1 and 100 in case there is a tie. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, I enjoyed reading what you had to say and appreciate it. Lynn Marie

    • Hi Bobby, Make sure to leave a number between 1 and 100 with your answer to be eligible for the contest. That is in case we have a tie. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this article. I really appreciate it. Thanks, Lynn Marie

  3. The number one thing you should be doing as a review writer is actually and honestly be reviewing the item. Regardless of what admins, group moderators, sellers etc WANT. If the product is CRAP, you need to report it as such (period). While you can contact the seller to make good on their product, I ALWAYS, write my review as I received the product. I don’t care if this bans me from groups – it’s my integrity on the line – Yes, I contact the seller or the group admin – BUT – THIS is the opportunity for the seller to IMPROVE their PRODUCT. If I don’t report my initial findings, I am NOT reviewing UNBIASEDLY and HONESTLY, and therefore I am breaking Amazon’s TOS. Now, there ARE exceptions. If product packaging is damaged, there is a good chance the product could be damaged and defective. I trust my gut, if it walks like a duck, 99.9% of the time, it’s a duck. So if it looks and feels like crap, I don’t care how many replacements they send, it will still be crap.

    On the items I’ve given 1, 2 or 3 stars to; the sellers have THANKED me. They have modified their descriptions, they have made changes to their warnings, and so on. I then UPDATE my reviews after I verify and screenshot the updates to show in photo proof. This gives me reviewer credit and integrity.

    I do this because I actually BUY based on reviews, and when I read reviews I get very very ticked off reading the reviews KNOWING that groups DEMAND 4 or 5 stars – and I myself have actually been told before NOT to leave the review on an item because I couldn’t leave at least 4 stars. (Note to the group – guess what I did, yup – reviewed the item anyway). AND Reported the Group to Amazon. I will NOT risk my reviewer account for anyone.

    I am honest, I am unbiased, but most of all I AM a business owner, a mother and a grandmother. I buy products for my grandbabies and when I read reviews that are all 5* and get an item where the item breaks and becomes a choking hazard in 2 days, you better believe I am going to be PISSED.

    Number 57

    On another note: I chatted with an amazon rep about a week ago who informed me that algorithms are being updated and reviewers should go back and update any PERSONAL purchase reviews to also have a disclaimer. It should read something like this:

    DISCLAIMER: This was a PERSONAL PURCHASE. I did NOT receive a discount for the purchase of this product, I was NOT asked OR obligated TO LEAVE A REVIEW ON THIS PRODUCT, I AM IN NO WAY CONNECTED TO THIS SELLER AND HAVE LEFT THIS REVIEW OF MY OWN FREE WILL.

    The disclaimers I use are below:

    Free Purchases:

    As a mother, grandmother and business owner, I know and understand the true value of an honest review, I, myself, depend on reviews when making purchases and my business only exists thanks to testimonies and reviews from clients. I personally guarantee a fully unbiased review of this product.

    DISCLAIMER: I received this item at a full promotional discount in return for my honest and unbiased review, I am in no way connected or related to the seller.

    Discounted Purchases:

    As a mother, grandmother and business owner, I know and understand the true value of an honest review, I, myself, depend on reviews when making purchases and my business only exists thanks to testimonies and reviews from clients. I personally guarantee a fully unbiased review of this product.

    DISCLAIMER: I received this item at a DISCOUNT in return for my honest and unbiased review, I am in no way connected or related to the seller.

    • Hi Karen, Thanks for stopping by and sharing all of the information you have, it is so useful to read comments from other reviewers to see what they think and do. Love your disclaimers! I would like to talk to you about the personal purchases and the conversation you had with Amazon about them. I have left disclaimers for my full price purchases but have never heard it come down from Amazon like that before. Thanks, Lynn Marie

  4. This post ROCKS!! Even as a newbie to reviewing, I see so much of what you said in the post and what has been said in the comments that needs to be part of Reviewing 101 I wish I had a laptop to write my reviews, but I’ve been dictating them into Notes in my iPhone, and I have versions of my disclaimer at the bottom for C&P. So happy to see that my instincts of what to do have been tight on the money

    Oh, and my number is 28!

    • Hi Joanne, I am so glad you liked the article! I hope you can find other things on this blog that help you. I have a nice article on how to write a well-written review and a listing of sites to find products on. I am continually updating that page especially, finding better sites, taking off sites that I thought were great but just don’t make the cut once I learn more.

      I am happy to help anytime with questions you might have. Just leave a comment anywhere on the blog and I will follow up. This article came from a request from a blog subscriber yesterday and a post I saw on one of my favorite FB pages. I thought it was about time I wrote about it, lol.

      I have an upcoming article about pitching, maybe you could pitch for a laptop. I have seen people get some really nice things. I have had more success at it than I thought so hopefully what I share will help other people too.

      You are so right about the comments being left, they are helpful! The more we share, the more we learn. I have several things to follow up on and more articles to write. Let me know what you think is the most important thing a reviewer needs to do to go along with your number for the contest entry. Thanks for stopping by, I hope to see you back again soon.

      • Oops I forgot to mention the important things for reviewers to do You must actually use, test, try out the product. Put it thru the paces, make sure to use it the expected way, plus any commonly accepted alternates uses you are able to do. For example, I am reviewing some silicone drink coasters. Quite by accident, I figured out that they also work great as trivets under hot items. I’m definitely including that in my review!

  5. For me, the #1 most important thing to do, other than adhering to Amazon’s TOS and FTC’s regulations is to be honest. Really honest. Actually spend some time testing/evaluating and getting to know the product.
    I could go on all day about not using your account for promo-purchases only and not posting reviews the same day / or before the item shows up, or not looking stupid by using poor spelling, grammar, etc. – but the MOST important thing to do is to get to know the product.
    Otherwise, how can you honestly leave a truthful and useful review?
    My number is 7.

  6. I have amazon prime but I’m not very comfortable with the process and I see all this about the disclaimers. I’d like to participate more but I’m just barely having a toe in at this point. Thanks. 66

    • Hi Aaron, There is a lot to know, I didn’t realize at first how much I needed to know! Do you have an answer to the contest question about what is the number one thing a reviewer needs to be sure they are doing? The number is in case there is a tie.

      When you start, read everything you can and if you have questions, don’t be shy about speaking up. I am always open for questions here. If you belong to any FB groups or anything like that, there are often very helpful people there. FB groups aren’t my favorite place to find products because of all the drama though. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I would agree actually testing the products is very important. But I feel communication with Seller ranks up there too.
    I get about 10-15 emails from my sellers a day.
    I’ll be honest if you want a review on a face serum in 5 days. .you won’t get it.
    I always respond to them and say I’d like 10 days of use on this before I give you an honest review. I need to do several tests to do that.
    I’ve yet to have anyone argue that.
    So I guess that’s one in the same.
    I just started to use the ftc info but I have always stated I received this product for free or I purchased this product at a discounted rate to provided you with a fair non biased honest review. I have been am Amazon customer for x years. I am not affiliated with this company or any others that I have reviewed their products.
    And I rarely throw a 5 star. 4s yes.
    This is great info and I’m learning every day.
    my number will be 21 after my sons birthday:)

    • Hi Dana, I like what you had to say about needing time to try out a product. I don’t do supplements and don’t get involved in serums for wrinkles or things like that. I did do a few face serums at first but you are right, there isn’t time. Wrinkles are not going to disappear in a few weeks. If I think it is an item that won’t hold up, I do mention that I will come and update the review in a month. I have also gone and changed ratings on products that I loved at first but suddenly stopped working. We always have the right to edit our reviews!

        • I think supplements and other products similar to that, anything in pill form, can be something very dangerous to actually get involved in. I was doing a kidney cleanse for a review and tried to find out as much as I could beforehand. I ended up in the doctors office and the ER, I developed a kidney infection. Not just a run of the mill UTI, but a full blown kidney infection. I had to take antibiotics for a month or more. Even supplements manufactured here in the US have problems. You really need to be aware of what you are getting yourself into.

  8. The number one thing you should be doing as a reviewer is actually receiving the product and testing it so you can honestly do a review.

    My number is 15

  9. This is a such a helpful discussion! I, too, am hoping that disclaimers on items that I paid full price on (or used a promo code that was available to the general public without the requirement of a review) will not be needed. It just seems silly.

    I am familiar with the FTC statute that requires us to disclose, and I’m surprised that Amazon’s recommended disclosure language is not stronger. The way it reads at present, a shopper can read the disclosure and have no idea who funded the review — Amazon or the seller. That’s a significant ambiguity.

    My number is 72. Yes, if I win, I will probably buy review items…

  10. Hello Lynn Marie,
    Thank you for your blog. I enjoy reading what you have to say. It is good to hear what others are doing and saying out there.
    My disclaimer: I received this *name of product* at a discount or for free in exchange for a fair and honest review. We check out and test the products for ourselves before reviewing them for you.
    I actually had a seller contact me upset because I said “discount or for free”. He wanted me to say specifically we received it for free. ???
    I saw above that several have started indicating that they are not related to or associated with the seller. That is not a bad idea. I have been concerned about the house-cleaning that Amazon seems to be doing right now. As in any large-scale cleaning, you always worry about sweeping the baby out with the trash. I have seen some people who I know work hard to follow the rules getting swept up in this and don’t really understand why. One of them is the reason I follow your blog. She wanted everyone in her group to make sure we knew and understood the rules.

    • Hi Karen, It sounds like you have a good admin who cares about being in compliance! I too had a good friend who just lost her account. She has a really positive attitude about it, even though she had been doing it for years. Did you have an answer for our contest about the #1 thing a reviewer should make sure they are doing? If so, be sure to include a number with it in case there is a tie. Thanks!

  11. I read the article and found it interesting the number of ways you can say the same thing. I typically go with the standard language but I did use this one for one particular product (because it’s true)

    I was offered a discount in exchange for promising to leave my honest review, so I jumped on it. In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to pay more than necessary.

    My # guess is: 3

    • Hi Chip, Sounds like you liked that product! What is your answer for the question about what is the #1 thing a reviewer needs to make sure they are doing? You need to include that with you number. Thanks!

  12. First things first: it’s a disclosure. Not a disclaimer.

    2nd thing, at no point do you need to use the word honest. All amazon says is that your disclosure must be clear and conspicuous.

    3rd and final thing: Amazon is deleting reviewers from coupon clubs, almost all of whom say ‘honest review’ or something like that.

    • Hi Jerri, Thanks for taking the time to read my post and comment on it, I appreciate it!

      I think the term that reviewers commonly use, disclaimer, comes from the use of that term in in the Customer Review Creation Guidelines. I do see your point, that we are writing a disclosure. I am just folowing the common use in this case. I think it would be appropriate to add the term as a reference point in this article. Thank you for bringing up an interesting point.

      Honesty or a reference to integrity is mentioned several times as something a customer reviewer should be. But it is not clearly outlined in the TOS, not much is. It does say it has to be conspicuous, that is the one statement we have. For a long time we have seen examples of recommended statements that seem to come and go on Amazon, but once I saw this email from them with the word honest used in both examples that has been what I recommend. I can see where some clarification in that paragrsph may be needed, but the email is enough clarification for me until the time when Amazon does make some clear and definite rules in their TOS.

      Amazon has been deleting a lot of accounts, including not only ‘club’ members but Vine members and people who have no relationship to groups or clubs. It is apparent that there are too many people doing this for the wrong reason and should not be allowed to write reviews. There have also been cases of people who are doing the very best they can to give honest and unbiased reviews. But since the TOS are purposely vague, no one really knows why some of these people are losing their accounts, especially when there are so many flagrant individuals who’s abuse of the system has caused this mess, but are continuing to review.

      There are many people who have not used the term ‘honest review’ and been wiped so that is not the only data point they are using. I don’t see how additional wordsmithing will save an account, though I have considered it. Since no one really knows, I will just go on usingbthe terms that they have provided.

      If my account is wiped, at least I will know I followed the TOS to the best of my knowledge. More importantly I will know that I am honest and have rated the products fairly and without bias.

      It would be great if we had more defined parameters and I hope they will be included in the future of Amazon Customer Reviews.

      Thanks for your comments, especially disclaimer vs disclosure.

      I hope you stop back by, I find input to be beneficial and can often offer unexpected but valid points.

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