Over the past few years the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been actively taking steps to address consumer protection concerns with sponsorships and endorsements within social media posts that have not been clearly disclosed.
Indeed, the scale of the issue was highlighted in the Influencer Monitoring Report, published in March 2021 by another regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which found that a staggering 65% of the advertisements it monitored in September 2020 were not properly disclosed as ‘paid for’ content.
The CMA, ASA, and a third regulator, Ofcom, recently published a joint note outlining the regulatory framework to combat “hidden advertising” on social media platforms.
Against this background, in November 2022 the CMA issued new guidance on hidden ads with the aim of enhancing the transparency of online advertising. The regulator makes clear that hidden advertising is both harmful and illegal, and that it will not tolerate non-compliance with the rules.
The guidance sets out the regulator’s expectations for social media platforms, brands and content creators – as to how to ensure ads are compliant with the law. The guidance emphasises the need for each party to be proactive in ensuring the rules are followed, whilst recognising that there are also individual responsibilities to tackle these issues.