Social media influencers giving misleading recommendations or endorsements to their followers are being formally investigated by Australia’s consumer watchdog. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) began a social media sweep this week to find misleading material.
Here’s what you need to know.
The ACCC put out a public callout on their Facebook page earlier this month asking consumers to report influencers who are believed to be posting misleading material. This can include failing to disclose if a social media post is part of a paid advertisement or sponsorship, or if they’re being incentivised to promote the brand. Under Australian Consumer Law, businesses aren’t allowed to mislead or deceive customers when advertising or marketing a product. By not declaring a financial incentive, influencers could be misleading or deceiving their audience.
What’s the concern?
The ACCC believes that some influencers, advertisers, and brands are trying to hide the financial incentives behind brand promotions on social media. This could prevent consumers from making informed choices, as some followers may not know the influencer is being paid or incentivised to provide a positive review. Micro-influencers with a smaller following are of particular concern to the ACCC, who say their “seemingly authentic” relationship with their followers could be leveraged to add legitimacy to an advertised post.
Consumers reported over 100 influencers to the ACCC after its Facebook callout, who were largely promoting beauty and lifestyle products, or parenting and fashion. This includes content on platforms including Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitch. The ACCC will also be reviewing the role of advertisers, marketers, brands and social media platforms in influencer misconduct. Results will be published once they’re analysed, but no specific timeline has been given for this.
The ACCC has said they will publish the findings of the social media sweep once the results have been analysed. No specific timeline has been given for this. They’re also creating a new report on the use of social media services by platforms to Australian consumers and businesses, which is expected to be delivered to the Treasurer by the end of March.