Fake bloggers to be exposed

PR professionals who pose as customers to blog for clients could soon find themselves named and shamed by Trading Standards, and even face civil court proceedings.

A media and entertainment law firm this week warned the PR industry that ‘flogging’ (fake blogging) is likely to be made illegal when the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive passes into UK law on 31 December 2007.

The directive prohibits ‘unfair commercial practices’, including ‘falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession or falsely representing oneself as a consumer’.

Edelman last year apologised for ‘failing to be transparent’ on the identity of bloggers writing about client Wal-Mart (PRWeek, 20 October 2006).

The draft UK legislation will not be released for around a month, but acc­ording to Michael Simkins Solicitors’s partner Nicola Mc­C­ormick, ‘this prohibition will be directly translated into UK legislation’.

Trading Standards and the Office of Fair Trading will police the UK legislation. They could decide to name transgressors, and to pursue them through the courts if necessary.

There will even be potential for criminal action for ‘certain breeches’.

Once the directive passes into UK legislation, McCormick believes a number of costly civil cases are likely to take place, to better define the terms of the legislation.

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