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Australian consumer watchdog launches crackdown on misleading social media influencers

Canberra, Jan 27 (IANS) Peak consumer protection body, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said on Friday that it has started identifying misleading testimonials and endorsements by social media influencers after receiving more than 150 tip-offs.

Following a request from the ACCC last week seeking community feedback, the watchdog said hat they will look at more than 100 mentioned influencers who were reported to hide their affiliation with the product or company they are promoting, reports Xinhua news agency.

Most of those involved were in the beauty, lifestyle, parenting, and fashion categories, where influencer marketing is prevalent.

The ACCC said the sweep will be run over the following weeks.

A range of social media platforms including Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook, and livestreaming service, Twitch, will be reviewed, as well as the role of other parties such as advertisers, marketers and brands in facilitating misconduct.

“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,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“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.”

The watchdog noted that although many consumers are aware that influencers receive a financial benefit for promoting products and services, they remain concerned that influencers, advertisers and brands try to hide this fact from consumers, which prevents them from making informed choices.

This can particularly apply to micro-influencers with smaller followings, as they can build and maintain a more seemingly authentic relationship with followers to add legitimacy to hidden advertising posts.

“With more Australians choosing to shop online, consumers often rely on reviews and testimonials when making purchases,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“It is important social media influencers are clear if there are any commercial motivations behind their posts,” she added. “This includes those posts that are incentivized and presented as impartial but are not.”

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