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Influencers violating EU consumer law

The vast majority of influencers violate EU consumer law. Nearly all (97%) of influencers post commercial content but only one in five systematically indicated that their content was advertising, a  survey by the EU Commission and consumer authorities in member states plus Norway and Iceland shows. 

Posts of 576 influencers published on major social media platforms were checked. As a result of the sweep, 358 influencers were earmarked for further investigation. National authorities will now contact them to request that they follow the rules in place.

”Further enforcement action may be taken if necessary, in accordance with national procedures”, the Commission says.

Key findings:

  • 97% published posts with commercial content, but only 20% systematically disclosed this as advertising;
  • 78% of the verified influencers were a commercial activity but only 36% were registered as traders at national level;
  • 30% did not provide any company details on their posts, such as e-mail address, company name, postal address or registration number;
  • 38% of them did not use the platform labels to disclose commercial content, such as the “paid partnership” toggle on Instagram. On the contrary, these influencers opted for different wording, such as “collaboration” (16%), “partnership” (15%) or generic thanks to the partner brand (11%,);
  • 40% of the checked influencers made the disclosure visible during the entire commercial communication. 34% of influencers’ profiles made the disclosure immediately visible without needing additional steps, such as by clicking on “read more” or by scrolling down;
  • 40% of influencers endorsed their own products, services, or brands. 60% of those did not consistently, or at all, disclose advertising;
  • 44% influencers had their own websites, from which a majority was able to sell directly.
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“Problematic marketing practices illustrate the importance of having modern robust legislation that is adequate to ensure digital fairness for consumers online. This is why the results of the sweep will also feed into the Digital fairness fitness check on EU consumer law, launched in Spring 2022 by the European Commission”, the Commission says. 

“The purpose of this fitness check is to assess the problems that consumers face in the digital markets and to determine whether applicable EU law is sufficient to ensure a high level of consumer protection, or whether it would need targeted changes to better address these issues.” 

Several of the influencers were active on different social media platforms: 572 had posts on Instagram, 334 on TikTok, 224 on YouTube, 202 on Facebook, 82 on X (formerly Twitter), 52 on Snapchat, and 28 on Twitch.

The main sectors are fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, travel and fitness/sport. 119 influencers were considered to be promoting unhealthy or hazardous activities, such as junk food, alcoholic beverages, medical or aesthetic treatments, gambling, or financial services such as crypto trading.

EU consumer law provides that commercial communications need to be transparent. In their posts, influencers should not mislead consumers with false or untruthful information on the promoted products or services that fall under the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. Any promotion of the products or services of a brand in a post that earns its influencer revenues or other types of benefits must be disclosed as an advertising activity.

In addition, influencers who sell products or services for their own account have the same legal obligations as online shops, such as providing consumers with legal guarantees or withdrawal rights as required by the Consumer Rights Directive.

On 17 February 2024, the Digital Services Act will enter into application in the whole EU for all online platforms. The DSA harmonises obligations for all online platforms in the EU to reinforce the safety and trustworthiness of the online space. 

“As a result, influencers uploading content need to declare whether such content contains commercial communications. Furthermore, influencers that qualify as traders need to provide information to ensure their traceability before they use an online platform to promote or offer their products or services. These obligations already apply as regards the first designated very large online platforms (such as Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, Facebook, X and Snapchat). Smaller platforms will have to respect these rules also as from the 17 February”, the Commission says.

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