Feeds

Blog network must label promo content under OFT glare

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

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

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.

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
Bose says today IS F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.