What do influencers need to know about consumer law?
A Leeds academic is working with the European Commission to provide influencers with accessible information about consumer law.
From fitness instructors to book reviewers, influencers are creating content on all corners of the internet – but they are often unaware of EU consumer law requirements when advertising products.
To help content creators follow these rules, Dr Sophie Bishop, Associate Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Leeds, has worked with legal expert Dr Catalina Goanta from Utrecht University to provide academic advice for the European Commission’s new Influencer Legal Hub.
When influencers work alone, they can be vulnerable, so we are meeting creators from a place of support to help them understand the regulation and how to be compliant with it. This protects influencers and their audiences.
Anyone regularly making money from creating social media content is classed as a trader by European law, so they must follow rules when targeting European consumers. This includes ‘gifted’ items and affiliate links, which are rarely marked as advertisements.
The hub gives content creators access to training videos and legal briefings about best practices for disclosing advertising, due diligence and direct product sales.
Dr Bishop said: “When we think about influencers, we often think about the likes of Kim Kardashian, or the fictional Emily in Paris. Beyond the stereotypical influencer, individuals across creative industries are monetising social media content – from yoga instructors selling online classes to gaming streamers who get access to free or discounted video games.
“Unlike film actors, models or musicians, influencers don’t always have talent support or managers, and sometimes this means they aren’t aware of the regulation that applies to them and what they need to do to be compliant with it.
“When influencers work alone, they can be vulnerable, so we are meeting creators from a place of support to help them understand the regulation and how to be compliant with it. This protects influencers and their audiences.”
Commissioner for Justice at the European Commission, Didier Reynders said: “The business of influencers is thriving and a lot of consumers - often young people or even children - trust their recommendations. This business model, however, also comes with legal obligations. Influencers too must follow fair commercial practices and their followers are entitled to transparent and reliable information. Our Influencer Legal Hub will be a big help for all actors in the industry to understand the rules. I call on influencers to play by them.”
In the coming weeks, a social media sweep by the European Commission and national authorities of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network will screen online posts to identify testimonials and endorsements that mislead consumers.
Email University of Leeds Press Officer Mia Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org with media enquiries.
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