The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published an open letter to those involved in marketing and their clients offering practical guidance on two areas of concern: (1) identifying paid promotions, and (2) publishing fake reviews.

The CMA produced a brief guide in early March aimed at those involved in marketing explaining how to ensure that online endorsements and online reviews comply with consumer protection laws (CMA guidance). This guidance was followed up last week with an open letter from the CMA following their recent investigations into how online reviews and endorsements are being used, and whether this use complies with consumer protection laws (Open Letter).

ONLINE ENDORSEMENTS – PAID PROMOTIONS

All editorial content (including articles, blog posts, video blogs, Tweets and advertorials) used for promotion, where a trader has paid for the promotion (whether financially or otherwise) must be clearly marked as a promotion.

Businesses paying for promotions should make it clear that those promotions have been paid for by:

  • clearly identifying or labelling the promotion;
  • providing instructions to those involved in the relevant marketing campaign on how to implement this; and
  • ensuring that internal marketing policies reflect the requirements of consumer protection law and all marketing staff are aware of these requirements.

It is the CMA’s view that everyone involved in paid promotions is responsible for ensuring they are clearly labelled or identified as such.

FAKE REVIEWS

The CMA have warned businesses against offering inducements to customers in return for positive reviews, and reminded them of the importance of not pretending to be a customer and share a fake review. Online reviews should be honestly and freely given to ensure that consumers are not misled.

While it is clearly legal to market products through online publications, videos and blogs or to invite customers to leave reviews online the CMA reminds businesses of the importance of ensuring that this is done in compliance with consumer protection law. The onus is on the legal and compliance teams to teach their marketing teams about these requirements.