ACCC launches probe into misleading social media influencer posts

ACCC launches probe into misleading social media influencer posts

Australia's consumer watchdog is cracking down on social media influencers who may be failing to disclose sponsored posts and advertising after receiving 150 tip-offs from consumers who responded to a call-out asking for information.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it will look into more than 100 influencers mentioned by the public, most of whom were in the beauty and lifestyle space, as well as parenting and fashion.

The sweep will be run over the coming weeks, and include reviewing a range of social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook and livestreaming service Twitch.

The ACCC noted it will monitor both small and large-scale influencers, as those with a lower following can build and maintain a seemingly more authentic relationship with their audience to add legitimacy to hidden advertising posts.

Investigators will also consider the role of other parties such as advertisers, marketers, brands and social media platforms in facilitating misconduct.

“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.

“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.”

The sweep will also target other sectors where influencer marketing is particularly widespread including fashion, beauty and cosmetics, food and beverage, travel, health fitness and wellbeing, parenting, gaming and technology.

The news comes more than three months after the ACCC announced it was also looking into businesses making misleading environmental claims and fake online reviews.

A report outlining the findings from that sweep will be released in the coming months.

“With more Australians choosing to shop online, consumers often rely on reviews and testimonials when making purchases, but misleading endorsements can be very harmful,” 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.”

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