Influencers, Celebs Come Under Fire in New Letter Urging FTC to Crackdown on Sponsored Posts
The Fashion Law
Undisclosed paid ads are a serious problem on Instagram, running through the fashion industry and beyond, and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has yet to take action to enforce its policy, said Public Citizen, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy in a letter addressed to the governmental agency on Wednesday.
The letter was a follow-up to a letter the groups sent to the FTC on September 7, which documented more than 100 examples where products were featured in celebrity, athlete and personality Instagram posts but were most likely undisclosed ad campaigns or came about as a result of a mortal connection between the parties. The letter sent on Wednesday includes 50 new examples of undisclosed influencer posts on Instagram, including posts by David and Victoria Beckham; Pretty Little Liars actresses Ashley Benz, Shay Mitchell, and Lucy Hale; models Emily Ratajkowski and Heidi Klum; Kris Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian; Chrissy Teigen, Scott Disick, and Jennifer Lopez.
The FTC has a longstanding policy stating that paid endorsements should be clearly identified with #sponsored, #advertisement or #ad hashtag. In line with its “unique dual mission to protect consumers and promote competition,” the FTC issues guidelines to aid the public in ensuring that advertisements are not misleading and thus, do not violate Section 5 of the FTC Act, which provides that “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce are declared unlawful.” However the FTC has yet to respond to the groups’ request to enforce its own policy.
“The practice of undisclosed influencer advertising covertly promotes products that could harm consumers, especially teens and young adults,” according to a joint statement from the parties on Wednesday. A core principal of fair advertising law in the United States is that people have a right to know when they are targets of advertising. On Instagram, disguised ads are rampant; deceived consumers often believe celebrities are making unbiased endorsements of brands. They don’t realize that those celebrities are paid and may not even use the touted brand.