The consumer affairs ministry has released a guide on brand endorsements by celebrities and social media influencers. It said any celebrity, influencer or virtual influencer must disclose any material connection with the advertiser. It added that disclosures must be prominently and clearly displayed in the endorsement, making them extremely hard to miss. The influencers will have to pay up to Rs 50 lakh fine in case of non-compliance of the latest rules.
Releasing the guide ‘Endorsements Know-hows!’, the ministry said the disclosure includes not only benefits and incentives but also monetary or other compensation, trips or hotel stays, media barters, coverage and awards, free products with or without conditions, discounts, gifts and any family or personal or employment relationship.
“The guide aims to ensure that individuals do not mislead their audiences when endorsing products or services and that they are in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act and any associated rules or guidelines," the ministry said.
It added that endorsements must be made in simple, clear language and terms such as “advertisement", “sponsored", or “paid promotion" can be used. They should not endorse any product or service and service in which due diligence has not been done by them or that they have not personally used or experienced.
The guide is released in alignment with the guidelines set by the Consumer Protection Act of 2019. The Act established guidelines for protecting consumers from unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements. The Department of Consumer Affairs has published Guidelines for prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022 on 9th June 2022.
These guidelines outline the criteria for valid advertisements and the responsibilities of manufacturers, service providers, advertisers, and advertising agencies. These guidelines also touched upon celebrities and endorsers. It states that misleading advertisement in any form, format or medium is prohibited by law.
Multiple social media influencers and agencies participated via video conferencing in the press conference to release of the guidelines. The industry appreciated and supported the release of these guidelines. They stated that this will further strengthen the industry and protect consumer interests.
With the increasing reach of digital platforms and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there has been a rise in the influence of virtual influencers, in addition to celebrities and social media influencers. This has led to an increased risk of consumers being misled by advertisements and unfair trade practices by these individuals on social media platforms.
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