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