Social media users set to benefit from new hidden advertising protections

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published guidance for social media platforms, brands, and content creators to follow so that people can easily spot a paid-for online endorsement.

The CMA has published compliance principles to help social media platforms prevent and tackle hidden advertising appearing on their sites. The principles represent what the CMA considers platforms should be doing to comply with consumer protection law and requires platforms to be proactive in tackling hidden advertising.

The content creators and social media endorsements guidance has updated advice on how to label commercial content to comply with consumer protection law. The guidance covers issues such as disclosing gifts, own-brand relationships and the importance of upfront, prominent disclosures when posting reels, stories or other video content. It builds on and provides further detail to the requirements of the undertakings given by 16 influencers in 2019. The CMA monitors compliance with undertakings given to it.

Brands which use content creators to advertise their products also have a responsibility to be transparent with people and make sure that advertising on social media platforms is properly labelled. The business responsibility and social media endorsements guidance sets out the CMA’s views on how brands can comply with consumer protection law, and the steps brands should take to reduce the risk of hidden advertising, including:

  • ensuring content creators understand their legal obligations before posting as a result of being sent a gift, or entering into an agreement to publish content-based advertising
  • checking that published content is properly identified as advertising, and if not, taking steps to rectify the content to accurately reflect the commercial relationship

The CMA works closely with both Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to tackle hidden advertising on social media platforms. Regulatory roles in tackling hidden advertising is a guide to assist everyone involved in online advertising understand each regulator’s respective roles and responsibilities.

The CMA’s publications: