UK Govt cracks down on celebrity promotional tweets
Many celebrities are facing possible litigation by the Office of Fair Trade (OFT) in the UK because of their tweets to promote products via their Twitter accounts. If a celebrity (or anyone for that matter) is tweeting, blogging or posting online a product they are being paid to endorse and are not disclosing this information it is deceptive under fair trading laws according to the OFT.
“Online promotional activity, just like any other promotional activity, must clearly identify when promotions and editorial comment have been paid for, so that consumers are not misled” says the OFT.
If you use Twitter it is pretty well known that celebrities will promote products in their stream, which of course you know they are getting paid for it. Typically if it is a paid tweet you will see “ad” at the end of the tweet letting you know it’s a paid-advertisement. If you don’t see the word “ad” then it leaves it open to judgement. Is the person tweeting a product because they were paid to or are they just promoting something they use personally and actually do use it/like it? It’s a gray area and I imagine this is one reason why the OFT is looking into this further.
I am not sure where to stand on this. As I do agree that celebs promoting a product without stating they were paid to is deceptive, I don’t see a lot of harm in it. But I could see how someone or a company could use this maliciously if their product is a scam and people were being wrongfully persuaded via paid tweets or what have you that the product is good. So there is value to this investigation.
If found guilty of any unfair trading in accordance with the UK Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, the penalty can be fines over £5000 (U.S. $7785) and up to two years imprisonment. One could argue that celebs have enough pull and money that a slap on the wrist would be all they would get, but who wants to go through that hassle, embarrassment, wasted time and fines. If any good comes out of this, it’s less promotional spam, which I hate anyways.
Some notable UK Celebs that are on Twitter:
Lily Allen - 2,579,171 followers
Rob Brydon - 314,022 followers
Jonathon Ross - 813,782 followers
Jimmy Carr - 627,575 followers
Phillip Schofield - 515,385 followers
Those just to name a few. Of course there are many others, but those are some big ones. I might also note, I am not implying any of the named celebs above are being investigated or have broke any fair trading laws.