Watchdog launches investigation into social media influencers’ behaviour

16 August 2018

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating the behaviour of social media ‘influencers’ on major online platforms.

The regulator is concerned that highly influential social media stars with millions of online followers do not clearly declare when videos and other posts are sponsored or paid for by businesses.

Companies routinely pay so-called influencers to post sponsored content advertising products and services.

The CMA is concerned about the clarity of such sponsorships at it believes social media stars often don’t clearly signal to their audiences when content is sponsored.

Followers may believe that the endorsement represents the personality’s personal view, rather than a commercial obligation.

The CMA says it has written to a “range of celebrities and social media influencers” to better understand the nature of such business agreements.

George Lusty, the CMA’s senior director for consumer protection, comments: “Social media stars can have a big influence on what their followers do and buy.

“If people see clothes, cosmetics, a car, or a holiday being plugged by someone they admire, they might be swayed into buying it.

“So it’s really important they are clearly told whether a celebrity is promoting a product because they have bought it themselves or because they have been paid or thanked in some way by the brand.”

The CMA says it as seen examples of posts that promote products without clearly stating if the post was paid for. It has also found evidence of celebrities giving ‘personal opinions’, which are in fact paid endorsements.

The regulator is asking the public to share its experience of social media posts and influencers who may have promoted products without clear indication. If you have bought a product as a result of a paid social media endorsement, you can share you views with the CMA.

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