OFT gets tough on “misleading” blog ads

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has vowed to crack down on “deceptive” social media sites that contain undisclosed paid-for promotions.

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The OFT says it has taken “precedent-setting” enforcement action against blogging network Handpicked Media after it failed to identify promotional content.

It says in a statement: “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.”

Comments about services and products on website blogs and microblogs such as Twitter should also disclose paid-for promotions, the OFT adds.

The warning comes ahead of the extension of the Advertising Standards Authority’s remit that will see it regulate companies’ marketing communications online, including branded social media sites.

Heather Clayton, senior director of OFT’s consumer group, says that it is has “bolstered” its expertise in digital action and will be taking “targeted” action to ensure compliance.

She adds: ’The integrity of information published online is crucial so that people can make informed decisions on how to spend their money. 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.’

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