'Brands and agencies are as responsible for sponsored content as influencers', says CMA

The Competitions and Marketing Authority (CMA) legal director has warned brands and agencies that they are just as responsible as influencers to ensure rules and regulations are followed.

(l-r) The CMA's Jason Freeman and journalist Chris Stokel-Walker discuss influencer marketing regulation
(l-r) The CMA's Jason Freeman and journalist Chris Stokel-Walker discuss influencer marketing regulation

Speaking at PRWeek’s Influencer Breakfast Briefing in London, CMA legal director Jason Freeman (above left) and freelance journalist and author Chris Stokel-Walker kicked off a series of talks on what the future holds for influencer marketing.

Stokel-Walker wanted to know what the latest influencer regulation and compliance means for brands, agencies and influencers.

Freeman explained what compliance looked like in practical terms: "Anyone endorsing a product or service on social media needs to clearly disclose they have received any payment, gift, or any other incentive.

"Influencers should not give the impression that they are genuine customers when they are not."

Authenticty is another sticking point. Freeman said that if you give the impression that you have personally purchased or used something when you have not, you could be falling foul of the law, and that the same principles apply to social media as any other form of advertising.

He said the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was more responsive to 'day-to-day' complaints ,but that the CMA is interested in how markets work as a whole, and can prioritise action to protect consumers against practices that may misled large numbers of people.

Stokel-Walker, the author of YouTubers: How YouTube shook up TV, asked whether pre-existing posts would need to be changed as rules evolve.

"Saying I did it a while ago isn’t going to make a difference," Freeman responded.

He said that even if influencers are talking about company ethics or the environmental credentials of a business, that sort of content can be commissioned, and so the disctinction still has to be clear.

"Do you believe consumers can trust what they see?" asked Stokel-Walker, before Freeman said consumers should be able to trust reviews and influencers.

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