The Rise of Non-Compliant Influencer Commercial Content: A European Challenge

A Surprising Number of Influencers Involved in Unethical Practices

According to a recent survey by the European Commission, only 20% of influencers consistently disclose whether their content includes advertisements. Shockingly, over half of those surveyed are currently under investigation for potential violations of advertising regulations. As part of this study, investigators looked at social media posts from 576 influencers across 22 EU member states, including France, as well as Norway and Iceland.

Many influencers were found to post commercial content without proper disclosure or merely doing so indirectly. Of the influencers studied,78% participated in commercial activities, yet just 36% were registered as merchants at a national level. These influencers spanned various industries such as fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, travel, and sports.

  • 30% did not provide necessary information about promoted companies such as email, postal address, name, or registration number.
  • 119 were promoting potentially harmful or dangerous activities such as junk food, alcoholic beverages, medical/aesthetic treatments, gambling, or financial services like cryptocurrency trading.

If needed, coercive measures may be taken following national procedures, warns the regulator.

Towards Improvement: Adapting European Law for the Digital Age

The findings reinforce the importance of having robust legislation capable of ensuring fair digital practices and consumer protection. With that, the results will contribute to an evaluation of digital fairness in European consumer law, planned for spring 2022 by the European Commission. Ultimately, this assessment aims to decide if existing European laws are adequate to guarantee a high level of consumer protection.

Dangers of Non-Compliant Commercial Content

When influencers fail to disclose their advertising partnerships or participate in unethical commercial practices, they not only violate the law but also pose risks for society at large:

  • Consumer deception: Consumers may unwittingly believe that influencers are endorsing a product or service out of genuine enthusiasm when they are, in fact, being compensated.
  • Unfair competition: Companies who adhere to ethical advertising practices may suffer as those using deceptive tactics can gain an unfair advantage.
  • Potential harm to users: Influencers promoting unhealthy or dangerous activities can encourage their audience to indulge in these behaviors, potentially leading to harmful consequences.

Therefore, ensuring stricter compliance with advertising regulations and increasing consumer protection has become essential.

Role of Social Media Platforms in Addressing the Problem

Social media platforms have a significant responsibility in combating non-compliant influencer commercial content. Some possible ways they can contribute include:

  1. Implementing clear guidelines for influencers regarding sponsored content, including proper disclosure methods.
  2. Monitoring influencer content on their platform for violations of advertising laws or guidelines and addressing non-compliance through sanctions or penalties.
  3. Providing educational resources to help influencers better understand advertising laws and best practices for ethical promotion of products and services.

Tackling irresponsible influencer advertising requires cooperation among all stakeholders, including social media platforms, influencers themselves, regulators, and consumers.

Consumers’ Role in Ensuring Ethical Influencer Advertising

Consumers can play a vital part in promoting responsible influencer advertising by getting informed and making conscious choices. Here are some actions consumers can take:

  • Research the influencers they follow, checking if they disclose advertising partnerships transparently.
  • Unfollow or report influencers who frequently engage in unethical advertising practices or promote harmful content.
  • Support brands and influencers that embrace honest and responsible advertising strategies.

By demanding greater transparency and accountability from influencers and social media platforms, consumers can contribute to a more ethical digital landscape.

In Conclusion: A Call for Action

The findings of the European Commission’s survey demonstrate a pressing need for stronger regulation enforcement and improved consumer protection in the area of influencer commercial content. The responsibility lies with all stakeholders – regulators, social media platforms, influencers themselves, and consumers – to ensure a more ethical and transparent digital environment.