Don't Say That
June 3, 2024 Last Updated

Don’t Say That! By Greg Christiansen & Anik Singal Summary: FTC Rules For Marketing & Advertising Content

Key Takeaways
Don’t Say That! provides a comprehensive framework to help marketers ensure their practices align with FTC regulations.

Avoid Misleading Claims: Marketers must avoid making false or deceptive statements about their products, including using fake discounts or unsubstantiated claims.

Consider the Net Impression: Ensure that the overall message conveyed by marketing materials is truthful and not misleading, even if individual statements are technically accurate.

Substantiate All Claims: Any claims about a product’s performance, effectiveness, or benefits must be backed by solid evidence, especially for health and safety claims.

Use Testimonials Responsibly: Testimonials should reflect typical consumer experiences and disclose any connections between the endorser and the company, avoiding exceptional results unless clearly stated.

Set Realistic Expectations: Marketing materials should set achievable expectations and clearly disclose the typical results customers can expect, supported by appropriate data.

The Pentagon of Compliance

The book looks at five key areas marketers should focus on to ensure their marketing practices are compliant with FTC regulations. Here’s a breakdown of each component:

  1. Avoiding misrepresentations:
    • Marketers must avoid making false or misleading statements about their products or services.
    • This includes not using deceptive pricing tactics, such as fake discounts or inflated “regular” prices.
    • Marketers should not make unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness, features, or benefits of their offerings.
  2. Understanding the “net impression” of marketing messages:
    • The “net impression” is the overall message consumers take away from an advertisement or marketing piece.
    • Marketers must consider how a reasonable consumer would interpret their marketing claims, not just the literal meaning of the words used.
    • Even if individual statements are technically true, the overall net impression must not be misleading.
  3. Substantiating claims:
    • Any objective claims made in marketing materials must be backed up by solid evidence.
    • This includes claims about a product’s performance, effectiveness, or comparative advantages.
    • The level of evidence required depends on the nature of the claim, with health or safety claims requiring the highest level of substantiation.
  4. Using testimonials correctly:
    • Testimonials and endorsements can be powerful marketing tools, but they must be used responsibly.
    • Marketers must disclose any material connections between the endorser and the company, such as payments or free products.
    • Testimonials should reflect the typical consumer experience, not exceptional results. If atypical results are used, this must be clearly disclosed.
  5. Setting goals and expectations clearly and transparently:
    • Marketers should avoid setting unrealistic or misleading expectations about the results consumers can achieve.
    • Income or performance goals should be based on the typical customer experience, not exceptional cases.
    • If specific income goals or projections are used, they must be backed up by solid data and presented with appropriate disclosures.

By focusing on these five key areas, marketers can create promotional materials that are not only effective but also compliant with FTC regulations. 

This Pentagon of Compliance provides a useful framework for evaluating marketing claims and ensuring they are truthful, substantiated, and not misleading to consumers.

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FTC Rules For Sales Pages, Webinars & More

Based on the ebook, here are the specific rules that apply to different marketing channels:

Written Sales Pages:

  1. Terms of Service pages should be comprehensive and tailored to the business, not copied from other sites.
  2. Privacy Policy pages must disclose what data is collected, how it’s used, and how it’s protected.
  3. Contact information, including an email address and physical address, should be easily accessible.

Webinars & Video Sales Letters:

  1. Avoid falsifying claims of being live if the webinar is pre-recorded.
  2. Provide a clear opening disclosure about the nature of the presentation and any earnings claims.
  3. Testimonials must have signed releases, full claim substantiation, typicality of results, and disclosure proximity.
  4. Be cautious about sharing personal success stories and provide context.
  5. Avoid hypothetical earnings calculations that could be seen as implied claims.
  6. Document any charitable donations mentioned.
  7. Ensure any value stacking or bonuses are substantiated.
  8. Avoid false scarcity tactics.

Read More: Alex Hormozi Webinar Breakdown: Sales & Copywriting Checklist from “$100M Leads” Launch 


  1. Sales agents must provide proper introductions, including their real name, company, and call purpose.
  2. Avoid using fake titles or credibility claims for sales agents.
  3. Inform customers of their right to cancel (cooling-off period) as per federal and state laws.
  4. Prohibit pushy, unprofessional, or bullying sales tactics.
  5. Don’t promise special treatment to close a sale.
  6. Avoid setting income goals for customers that aren’t substantiated by typical results.
  7. Provide clear disclosures whenever necessary during the call.
  8. Don’t oversell the refund policy or guarantee to rush a purchase decision.
  9. Sales agents should not offer legal, tax, or financial advice unless properly qualified.
  10. Adhere to regulations regarding hidden phone numbers, robocalls, and ringless voicemails.

Recurring Sales (ROSCA):

  1. Obtain clear consent before charging for any additional products or services.
  2. Clearly disclose negative option plans and make terms easily accessible.
  3. Don’t misrepresent “free” trials or make it difficult to opt out.
  4. Avoid pre-checked boxes that sign customers up for extra services.
  5. Ensure confirmation messages and disclaimers are easy to find and read.
  6. Provide a simple cancellation process for recurring charges.

These rules are in addition to the general guidelines discussed throughout the book, such as avoiding misrepresentations, substantiating claims, and understanding the net impression of marketing messages.

Key Phrases To Avoid

Here is a comprehensive list of all the key specific phrases that the ebook recommends marketers avoid:

  1. “Easy” – e.g., “So easy, a child could do this…”
  2. “Step-by-Step” – e.g., “Don’t worry, we give you one baby step at a time.”
  3. “Handholding” – e.g., “We’ll hold your hands every step of the way.”
  4. “Risk Free” – e.g., “There is no risk to this!”
  5. “No experience needed” – e.g., “Anyone can do it, 100% no experience needed.”
  6. “Guaranteed” – e.g., “This is guaranteed to work.”
  7. “Completely automated” or “100% Done for you”
  8. “You can do this in your sleep…”
  9. “100% passive income”
  10. “It takes just one click…”
  11. “Use none of your own money (OPM)”
  12. “What is your goal?” (in the context of setting income goals)
  13. “We’re really going to pour into you because I want you to become one of our key success stories that we can promote in the future.”
  14. “You’re lucky. We’re really going to pour into you because I want you to become one of our key success stories that we can promote in the future. So, you’re going to get more from us!”
  15. “Only 30 spots left.”
  16. “This price expires tonight.”
  17. “You’ll never see this offer again.”
  18. “Limited time bonus.”
  19. “This bonus is for the first 100 customers only.”
  20. “Act today and you get this entire online digital course, a total value of $38,760, for just $497, and you can begin changing your life instantly.”
  21. “Buying real estate is easy with us. We’ve laid out the entire plan for you step by step. You don’t even have to think. Just do what we tell you.”
  22. “We hold your hand the entire way. You’ll never feel alone.”
  23. “Tests prove this treatment works…”
  24. “Studies show this diet will help you lose weight…”
  25. “What do you have to lose? It’s totally risk free. You can always get your money back. You have time to think about it, but let’s make a decision today.”
  26. “Let’s get this business started. You can deduct the cost of this entire program on your taxes. You can deduct your home because it’s a home office. You have so many tax benefits, even if you don’t make a dollar.”
  27. “Let’s set up your estate immediately. Once your funds are there, your wife can never touch them if you get divorced.”
  28. “I can’t wait to make $10,000 a month with this.” (when said by a customer without proper disclaimers from the sales representative)

These phrases, when used without proper context or disclaimers, can create false impressions, mislead consumers, and attract unwanted attention from regulatory bodies like the FTC.

On Refund Policies

According to the ebook, refund policies should be clear, easy to follow, and honor the mandatory “cooling-off period.” Here are the specific rules mentioned:

  1. Have a clear and conspicuous refund policy: Make sure your refund policy is easy to find and understand. Don’t hide it in the fine print or make it difficult for customers to locate.
  2. Honor refund requests promptly: When a customer requests a refund, process it quickly and without hassle. Don’t make them jump through hoops or wait an unreasonable amount of time to receive their money back.
  3. Provide a mandatory “cooling-off period”: The FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule requires businesses to give customers a minimum 3-day right to cancel for sales over $25 that occur at a location other than the seller’s permanent place of business. Some states have even longer cooling-off periods (e.g., Alaska up to 15 days, California up to 7 days, Utah up to 5 days).
  4. Inform customers about their right to cancel: It’s not enough to simply have a cooling-off period; you must clearly inform customers about their right to cancel. This information should be prominently displayed on the receipt or contract.
  5. Make cancellations easy: Don’t make it difficult for customers to exercise their right to cancel during the cooling-off period. Provide a simple, straightforward process for canceling and receiving a refund.
  6. Be extra accommodating for vulnerable populations: Be particularly accommodating with refund requests from seniors, disabled persons, and veterans, as regulators provide extra protections for these groups.
  7. Avoid using refund policies as a selling point: While it’s important to have a clear and fair refund policy, don’t use it as a high-pressure sales tactic (e.g., “What do you have to lose? It’s totally risk free. You can always get your money back.”).
  8. Understand that good customer service isn’t a shield: Having a low refund rate and good customer service is commendable but doesn’t automatically protect you from FTC scrutiny. You must still comply with all applicable rules and regulations.

Remember, the goal is to have a refund policy that is customer-friendly, easy to understand, and compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. When in doubt, err on the side of being more accommodating to your customers.


According to the ebook, the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act (ROSCA) sets specific rules for businesses that offer products or services with recurring charges. Here are the key regulations under ROSCA:

  1. Clear disclosure of terms: Businesses must clearly disclose all material terms of the transaction before obtaining the consumer’s billing information.
  2. Express informed consent: Businesses must obtain the consumer’s express informed consent before charging them for the transaction. This means the consumer must affirmatively agree to the recurring charges.
  3. Prohibition on pre-checked boxes: Businesses cannot use pre-checked boxes or other methods that interpret a consumer’s silence or failure to take an affirmative action as consent to the recurring charges.
  4. Simple cancellation process: Businesses must provide a simple mechanism for the consumer to stop recurring charges. This could include a toll-free telephone number, email address, or another cost-effective, timely, and easy-to-use mechanism.
  5. Prohibition on hidden charges: Businesses cannot charge consumers for goods or services without their express informed consent. All charges must be clearly disclosed upfront.
  6. Restrictions on negative options: In a negative option plan (where the consumer’s silence or failure to cancel is interpreted as consent to continue the plan), businesses must: 
    1. Clearly disclose the terms of the plan; 
    2. Obtain the consumer’s express informed consent;
    3. Provide a simple cancellation process
  7. Prohibition on misrepresenting “free” trials: Businesses cannot misrepresent the terms of a “free” trial, including the cost after the trial period and the process to cancel before being charged.
  8. Prohibition on deceptive or misleading practices: Businesses cannot engage in any deceptive or misleading practices related to recurring charges, such as hiding key terms in fine print or making it difficult to cancel.

In summary, ROSCA aims to protect consumers from unexpected or unauthorized recurring charges by requiring clear disclosures, express informed consent, and easy cancellation mechanisms.

Businesses offering recurring billing must ensure they comply with all aspects of ROSCA to avoid legal issues or FTC enforcement actions.

To Sum Up…

Don’t Say That! by Greg Christiansen & Anik Singal serves as an essential guide for marketers aiming to stay on top of FTC regulations. 

By focusing on avoiding misleading claims, considering the net impression of their messages, substantiating all claims with solid evidence, using testimonials responsibly, and setting realistic expectations, marketers can ensure their practices are both effective and compliant. 

The book’s framework offers a structured approach to maintaining ethical and legal standards in marketing. Adhering to these principles helps in building consumer trust and protecting businesses from potential legal pitfalls – for long-term success in a competitive market.



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