The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has started a sweep of social media influencers to identify misleading testimonials and endorsements.
The consumer watchdog will also look 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 move comes a week after the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) released its quarterly report, which highlighted social media as an area where “care is needed” by alcohol marketers.
ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said: “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.
“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 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.
The ACCC team is reviewing a range of social media platforms including Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook, and livestreaming service, Twitch, and the watchdog said it would target a number of sectors where influencer marketing is particularly widespread, which includes food and beverage.
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,” 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.”
She added: “Online markets need to function well to support the modern economy. Part of that is ensuring consumers have the confidence they need to make more informed purchasing decisions.”
The ACCC will publish the findings of this sweep once the results have been analysed.