ACCC seeks hidden ads
The competition regulator is hunting misleading testimonials and endorsements by social media influencers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has started an online sweep this week looking at more than 100 influencers mentioned in over 150 tip-offs from consumers who responded to the ACCC’s Facebook post asking for information.
Most of the tip-offs from members of the public were about influencers in beauty and lifestyle, as well as parenting and fashion, failing to disclose their affiliation with the product or company they are promoting.
“The number of tip-offs reflects the community concern about the ever-increasing number of manipulative marketing techniques on social media, designed to exploit or pressure consumers into purchasing goods or services,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.
“We want to thank the community for letting us know which influencers they believe might not be doing the right thing,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
“Already, we are hearing some law firms and industry bodies have informed their clients about the ACCC’s sweep, and reminded them of their advertising disclosure requirements,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
The sweep is being run over the coming weeks as part of the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities for 2022/23, with the broad aim of identifying deceptive marketing practices across the digital economy.
As part of the sweep, the ACCC team is reviewing a range of social media platforms including Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook, and livestreaming service, Twitch.
The sweep is targeting sectors where influencer marketing is particularly widespread including fashion, beauty and cosmetics, food and beverage, travel, health fitness and wellbeing, parenting, gaming and technology.
In conducting the sweep, the ACCC is also considering the role of other parties such as advertisers, marketers, brands and social media platforms in facilitating misconduct.
“With more Australians choosing to shop online, consumers often rely on reviews and testimonials when making purchases, but misleading endorsements can be very harmful,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
“It is important social media influencers are clear if there are any commercial motivations behind their posts. This includes those posts that are incentivised and presented as impartial but are not. The ACCC will not hesitate to take action where we see consumers are at risk of being misled or deceived by a testimonial, and there is potential for significant harm.
“This action may include following up misconduct with compliance, education and potential enforcement activities as appropriate.”