To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to introduce tougher advertising legislation for celebrities who do not clearly state that their social media posts include branded items which are part of an advertising partnership.
22 January 2020
Last year the government announced its intention to review how online advertising is regulated in the UK, looking at how well the current regime is equipped to tackle the challenges posed by developments in online advertising. The announcement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/jeremy-wrights-statement-on-the-cairncross-review
Currently, advertising in the UK is overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the industry’s independent regulator, which for online advertising enforces the Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) through a system of self-regulation. The CAP Code incorporates all relevant legislation, including consumer protection legislation, and sets standards for accuracy and honesty to which advertisers must adhere. This system operates independently of government.
The remit of the ASA extends to the online promotion of products by celebrities, if the celebrity has been paid (including payment in kind) by an advertiser, and the advertiser exerts some form of editorial control over the resulting content. To guarantee compliance with the CAP Code in such cases, advertisers must ensure that endorsements are genuine, claims are accurate and advertising is clearly identified as such. The products themselves must also adhere to relevant regulation and standards.
If the advertiser does not exert some form of editorial control over the resulting content, consumer protection legislation still applies and is enforced instead by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA works closely with the ASA in this area, and expects such content to clearly identify any commercial relationship and to have regard to the CAP Code.
The Competition and Markets Authority recently investigated social media endorsements by influencers / celebrities to ensure that they were being clear to their followers, resulting in influencers / celebrities changing their practices. They also published a guide to help influencers and those working with them to understand how to comply with UK consumer protection law. Separately to this work, but complementary to the government's review of online advertising, the CMA is conducting a market study of online platforms and digital advertising, and published an interim report in December which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-lifts-the-lid-on-digital-giants