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Govt issues guidelines to hold influencers responsible; safeguard consumers

New Delhi, March 7, 2023 

The guidelines go on to say that individuals should not endorse products or services that they have not personally used

The Department of Consumer Affairs released a new set of guidelines for social media influencers on March 6. The new guidelines are expected to affect a Rs 1,275 crore online endorsement market in the country according to a report in the Financial Express (FE).

The guidelines are titled 'Endorsements Know-hows!' and aim to educate celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers working on social-media platforms. The guidelines have been introduced to ensure that such individuals comply with the Consumer Protection Act and any associated rules or guidelines. They aim to ensure that influencers do not mislead their audiences when endorsing products or services.

The guidelines mention that endorsements must be made in simple and clear language. Additionally, to communicate that a video or message is an endorsement, terms such as 'advertisement', 'sponsored', 'collaboration', or 'paid promotion' should be used.

The guidelines go on to say that individuals should not endorse products or services that they have not used personally.

The guidelines also talk about individuals or groups who have followers and access to their trust. They say that influencers with the power to affect followers' purchasing decisions should act responsibly and should disclose their relationship with the brand they are endorsing.

The disclosures must be made in a manner that is extremely hard to miss. Discloures should not be mixed with any other group of hashtags or links, the report added.

People aware of industry developments said that the number of brand-influencer deals is bound to fall in the times to come, but insisted that influencers must act responsibly.

"Influencer violations comprise almost 30% of ads taken up by ASCI, hence legal backing for disclosure requirements is a welcome step," said Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary general, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

In a notification released in January, the consumer affairs ministry had announced that advertisements found to be misleading consumers would face a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh. Such influencers may also face a suspension from online platforms for as long as two years, FE reported.

[The Business Standard]

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