The Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (vide press release dated January 20, 2023) has released guidelines for celebrities, influencers and virtual influencers specifically with respect to social media platforms. The said guidelines are called ‘Endorsement Know-hows! For Celebrities, Influencers & Virtual Influencers on Social Media platforms

These guidelines talks about the disclosure of certain information by such celebs and influencers while they are advertising/ promoting certain products on social media platforms.

1) Let’s break down some key words and it’s meaning

Celebrities: Famous personalities, including but not limited to the entertainment or sports industry have the power to affect the decisions or opinions of their audience.

Influencers: Creators who advertise products and services with a strong influence on the purchasing decisions or opinions of their audience.

Virtual Influencers: Fictional computer-generated ‘people’ or avatars who have realistic characteristics, features, and personalities of humans, and behave in a similar manner as influencers.

Material connection: Includes but is not limited to benefits and incentives, such as:

  • Monetary or other compensation;
  • Free products with or without any conditions attached, including those received unsolicited, discounts, gifts;
  • Contest and sweepstakes entries;Trips or hotel stays;Media barters;Coverage and awards; or
  • Any family, personal or employment relationship.

2) Who should be disclosing information?

Individuals/ groups who have access to an audience and the power to affect their audiences’ purchasing decisions or opinions about a product, service, brand or experience, because of the influencer’s / celebrity’s authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.

3) When should such information be disclosed?

A material connection between an advertiser and celebrity/ influencer may affect the weight or credibility of the representation made by the celebrity/ influencer.

4) How to disclose information?

  • Information should be hard to miss – in a manner that it is clear, prominent and extremely hard to miss; disclosures should not be mixed with a group of hashtags/ links.

  • In case of endorsement in a picture – disclosure should be superimposed over the images in such a manner so that the person viewing them can see them clearly.

  • In case of endorsement in a video – disclosures shall be placed in the video and not only in the description; such disclosures shall be in both the audio as well as the video format.

  • In case of endorsement in a live stream – disclosures shall be displayed prominently throughout the entire stream.

  • Use of simple and clear language

  • Terms which are allowed: ‘advertisement’ or ‘ad’; ‘sponsored’; ‘paid promotion’ or ‘paid’.

  • Disclosures shall be in the same language as the endorsements.

  • Separate disclosures shall be made apart from platform disclosure tools.

5) Due Diligence

Celebrities/influencers are always advised to review and satisfy themselves that the advertiser is in a position to substantiate the claims made in the advertisement. It is strongly recommended that the endorser of a product or service should have actually used or experienced the product or service before endorsing it.

6) Consequences of non-compliance

Such celebs/ influencers shall be made liable under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 for non-compliance or non-disclosure (in case of false or misleading advertisements, penalty may extend up to INR 50 Lakhs).

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