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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Surreptitious advertising on influencers' social media? Investigation by the President of UOKiK

< previous | next > 01.10.2021

Surreptitious advertising on influencers' social media? Investigation by the President of UOKiK
  • Is sponsored content on blogs, Instagram or Facebook pages of internet celebrities adequately labelled? Can it mislead consumers?
  • The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection will investigate it.
  • Consumers, you have the right to reliable information on the reasons why influencers recommend certain products.

A popular YouTuber encouraging to get a game on your phone, a blogger praising a company selling cars, an Instagrammer promoting a drink in her posts – these are examples of cooperation between Polish influencers and well-known brands. How does it work, and is this kind of content on social media clearly marked as advertising or sponsored content? President of UOKiK Tomasz Chróstny has initiated an investigation to examine this market and develop guidelines for those who make money promoting products online.

Due to the rapidly growing market for advertising services offered by social media influencers and the surreptitious advertising they use, it is necessary to examine the principles of their cooperation with brands and advertising agencies and verify the transparency and clarity of their messages to other internet users. Our research shows that a lot of commercial content on influencer profiles on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook or other social media sites is not labelled as advertising at all. Other is marked insufficiently, e.g. only by the hashtag #ad, which may be incomprehensible to Polish internet users – says Tomasz Chróstny, President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.

Ban on surreptitious advertising

Paid promotion of products or services without clear indication that presented content is sponsored violates the ban on surreptitious advertising. It may constitute an unfair market practice and, in some cases, an act of unfair competition. This applies not only to traditional media but also to every other platform, including the increasingly popular social media sites.

Popular social media influencers have an enormous impact on internet users, especially young ones. If they praise a product, there is a good chance that their fans will want to emulate them and buy it. If an influencer is paid for the post but gives the impression of simply sharing a private opinion, it is simply unfair. Sponsorship should be understood broadly – the payment does not have to be money; it can be other benefits such as a trip or testing luxury products. Readers, listeners and viewers should be informed explicitly of all such situations – points out Tomasz Chróstny, President of UOKiK.

Investigation

During the investigation, we will examine relations of internet celebrities with advertising agencies and advertisers. We will take a closer look at social media and profiles of the most popular influencers. We will be checking if the advertising content is labelled at all, and if so – if it is clear enough or only visible, for example, after scrolling the page or hidden under some shortcut. We also intend to verify the reason for influencer neglect in this regard, for example, if sponsors require it.

- We want to introduce order to the market of sponsored content in social media so that internet users get a clear message to distinguish an advertisement from an objective product review. Consumers must not be misled. Once the investigation is complete, we might publish guidelines for those promoting products online. We count on their goodwill and self-regulation. We hope that it will not be necessary to resort to more drastic measures, such as financial penalties against those who by misleading consumers, would violate their collective interests – says Tomasz Chróstny, President of UOKiK.

The investigation concerns the matter itself and is not against any particular entrepreneur. The investigation will cover many entities from the industry, and in the nearest future, they can expect summonses from the Office. According to the regulations, failure to provide the information requested by the President of UOKiK in the course of such investigation or providing misleading information is punishable by a fine of up to EUR 50 million.

Consumer Assistance:

Tel. 801 440 220 or 22 290 89 16 – Consumer Hotline
E-mail: [SCODE]cG9yYWR5QGRsYWtvbnN1bWVudG93LnBs[ECODE]
 Consumer Ombudsmen – in your town or district

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warszawa, Poland
Phone +48 695 902 088, +48 22 55 60 246
E-mail: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]
Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

Attached files

 

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