On January 23, 2019, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) announced that it had secured undertakings from 16 social media influencers, including well-known names such as Ellie Goulding, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Rita Ora, that commit each influencer to increased transparency when they promote or endorse brands or services on social media on behalf of businesses.

The CMA stressed that applicable UK consumer law requires that it be made clear when posts are sponsored (i.e., paid or incentivized).  The CMA also disclosed that it has sent warning letters to other (unidentified) influencers and celebrities, and indicated it will continue to consider the role of social media platforms in this issue.

This enforcement action, together with the CMA’s recent success in court against secondary ticketing website Viagogo, and more recent threat to take Viagogo to court again, is evidence that consumer protection enforcement remains high on the CMA’s agenda.

Below, we summarise key elements of the undertakings in more detail, and also refer to further available UK regulatory guidance on how to advertise on social media.

Continue Reading UK Consumer Protection Regulator (“CMA”) Extracts Undertakings from Social Media Influencers to Increase Transparency in Sponsored Posts

The Regional Court in Hamburg rejected complaints by newspapers Zeit Online and Handelsblatt seeking to have Eyeo GmbH prohibited from selling its AdBlock Plus software. The ruling establishes the important principle that ad-blocking is legal, however there are other cases pending against AdBlock Plus in Germany that suggest that there may be more to come on this issue.

The publishers sought injunctive relief, arguing that AdBlock Plus illegally interfered with their ad-based online business models. AdBlock Plus allows users to block ads by tracking software and malware using a browser plugin which permits some “acceptable ads” to pass through the software’s filter mechanism (the so-called “white-list”). This practice was criticized as being discriminatory by media firms, as Eyeo GmbH gets paid by certain companies to put their ads on the whitelist (i.e. Google, Microsoft and Amazon.com). Users can modify the filter to block all ads.

The Court dismissed the action. The Court concluded that AdBlock Plus does not amount to an anti-competitive restriction of online offers financed through advertising. However, the full reasoning of the Court has not been published yet.

Continue Reading Ad Blocking Declared Legal: German Court Dismisses Discrimination Claims Brought by Publishers, but AdBlock Plus Maker Eyeo is Not Home Free Yet

On March 12, FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (“OPDP”) posted an untitled letter on its webpage alleging that Institut Biochimique SA’s (“IBSA”) Facebook page for the drug Tirosint® misbranded the drug.  The untitled letter is particularly noteworthy for its focus on one statement on a firm’s Facebook page.
Continue Reading FDA Issues Untitled Letter Focused On Promotional Claims On Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop on December 4, 2013 in Washington, DC to examine so-called “native advertising.”  This term refers to the practice of blending advertisements with news, entertainment, and other content in digital media and is sometimes also referred to as “sponsored content.”  As an FTC blog post explains, “[w]hatever the name, it’s for sure ads in digital media are starting to look a lot more like the surrounding content.  What are the consumer protection implications now that those lines appear to be blurring?”

According to the Commission, the workshop builds on previous Commission initiatives, such as the Dot Com Disclosures guidance and the Endorsements and Testimonials guidance, to “help ensure that consumers can identify advertisements as advertising wherever they appear.”  The FTC noted a number of questions and topics that may be covered at the workshop, including:

  • What is the origin and purpose of the wall between regular content and advertising, and what challenges do publishers face in maintaining that wall in digital media, including in the mobile environment?
  • In what ways are paid messages integrated into, or presented as, regular content and in what contexts does this integration occur?  How does it differ when paid messages are displayed within mobile apps and on smart phones and other mobile devices?
    Continue Reading FTC Announces Workshop To Examine Native Ads

On March 12, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released new guidance for online advertisers, providing specific tips and examples of how to make disclosures clear and conspicuous, and, therefore, not deceptive in the context of emerging technologies, space-constrained screens, and social media platforms.

The guidelines—titled “.com Disclosures:  How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising”—update prior guidance known as “Dot Com Disclosures,” which was released in 2000.  The updated guidelines emphasize that consumer protection laws apply to commercial activities across all mediums, including on computers, mobile devices, and tablets.
Continue Reading FTC Releases New Guidance For Online Advertising Disclosures