Feeds

Blog network must label promo content under OFT glare

If they pay, you've got to say, growls watchdog

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Consumer protection watchdog the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has forced a network of bloggers to make it clear when companies are paying it for coverage. The OFT investigated Handpicked Media under consumer protection laws.

The company operates a network of sites purporting to offer editorial coverage of fashion, beauty, music and lifestyle subjects. The OFT said, though, that it investigated the network on suspicion that the coverage was not independent but the result of payment to it.

"The OFT was concerned that individuals engaged by Handpicked Media were publishing online content which promoted the activities of Handpicked Media's clients, without sufficient disclosures in place to make it clearly identifiable to consumers that the promotions had been paid for," said an OFT statement. "This included publication on website blogs and microblogs (for example Twitter)."

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) protect consumers from unfair commercial practices which would lead them to take a purchasing decision that they would otherwise not have taken.

Handpicked Media has signed undertakings agreeing to identify clearly when coverage is connected to payments from its clients. The OFT said that the investigation and undertakings set a precedent.

"In taking this enforcement action the OFT has confirmed its view that online advertising and marketing practices that do not disclose they include paid-for promotions are deceptive under fair trading laws," said an OFT statement. "This includes comments about services and products on website blogs and microblogs such as Twitter."

"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," it said.

Heather Clayton, senior director of the OFT's consumer group, said that the body would be taking "targeted action" against companies that are not clear about the commercial background to blogs.

"The integrity of information published online is crucial so that people can make informed decisions on how to spend their money," she said. "We expect online advertising and marketing campaigns to be transparent so consumers can clearly tell when blogs, posts and microblogs have been published in return for payment or payment in kind. We expect this to include promotions for products and services as well as editorial content."

The OFT said that the undertakings agreed by Handpicked Media prevent it repeating the behaviour that led to the investigation.

"Through the signed undertakings, [Handpicked Media] has agreed not to engage in promotional activity unless bloggers within its network prominently disclose, in a manner unavoidable to the average consumer, that the promotion has been paid for or otherwise remunerated," the OFT statement said.

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
BT said to have pulled patent-infringing boxes from DSL network
Take your license demand and stick it in your ASSIA
Right to be forgotten should apply to Google.com too: EU
And hey - no need to tell the website you've de-listed. That'll make it easier ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.