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Influencers Called out for Misleading Posts

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By Published On: December 11, 20230 Comments

The ACCC has found that up to 81 percent of influencers may be misleading consumers through not disclosing brand partnerships. 

The ACCC has released a new report in its ongoing investigation into social media influencers testimonials and endorsements. The research revealed that of the 118 influencers reviewed in a social media sweep, 81 percent were found to be making posts that raised concerns under the Australian Consumer Law for potentially misleading advertising.

According to Australian Consumer Law, any information a business posts on social media must be accurate and truthful. The law states that businesses cannot mislead or deceive consumers which applies to influencers engaging in trade or commerce, as well as brands and marketers using influencers to advertise online. 

The ACCC has identified various different ways in which influencers and brands may mislead consumers in social media advertising. Misleading content could be incorrect statements about brand relationships, products or services, not disclosing underlying commercial relationships, sponsorships or other incentives received to promote a brand, product or service, or even disclosing brand relationships in a way that is vague, confusing or hard to notice.

The ACCC found that 96 percent of fashion influencers had made posts that could violate this law and 73 percent of gaming and technology influencer posts also raised concern. The investigation also found posts from influencers in the beauty and cosmetics sector, food and beverage, travel and lifestyle, health, and home and parenting sectors all raised varying elements of concern for misleading advertising. 

“Influencers often cultivate an image of themselves as being relatable and genuine, which can create an element of trust with their followers when it comes to recommendations,” ACCC Acting Chair Catriona Lowe said.

“Based on the findings of our sweep, we are concerned that influencers, brands and advertisers are taking advantage of consumers’ trust through hidden advertising in social media posts by influencers.”

The most common issue identified in the sweep was influencers not disclosing brand relationships in their posts. When this was disclosed, a lack of clear guidelines has resulted in influencers using vague language to disclose advertising. 

The ACCC has announced it is undertaking education, compliance and enforcement activities where appropriate and working toward releasing guidance in early 2024 for influencers and businesses to remind them of their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law to disclose advertising in social media posts.

“The next steps in our continuing scrutiny of these important parts of the online economy include developing strong guidelines for online operators so they clearly know what we expect, before a renewed focus on enforcement,” ACCC Acting Chair Catriona Lowe said.

“Influencers and businesses need to review their practices and improve compliance with the Australian Consumer Law to ensure consumers can trust the information they find online.”

About the Author: Rosalea Catterson

Rosalea is the Editor of Power Retail. With a keen interest in consumer behaviour and tech, she covers everything ecommerce and hosts the Power Retail Power Talks Podcast.

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