This past weekend, the UK's Guardian published an interesting article on the practice of celebrity endorsements on social networking sites like Twitter. As described by the Guardian, the Office of Fair Trading, the UK's consumer and competition authority, investigated a media company last year that engaged in remunerating individuals that published online content promoting the company's clients. At issue was the fact that the content was published "without sufficient disclosures in place to make it clearly identifiable to consumers that the promotions had been paid for." In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission suggested last year that the disclosure of sponsored tweets be made using a hashtag like #paid or #ad.
At home, meanwhile, the Financial Post recently reported on the Competition Bureau's response to the issue.
"In Canada, a spokesman for The Competition Bureau said that promoted tweets in Canada must conform to existing Canadian advertising legislation.
Anyone endorsing a product must actually use the product and their opinion of the product must not have changed, he said. However, Canadian law does not have any specific laws governing the use of promoted tweets on Twitter.
Thus, Canadian companies (and social media users) should be reminded that even in the Twitterverse, the Deceptive Marketing Practices provisions of the Competition Act continue to apply.