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134/10 13 December 2010
In precedent-setting enforcement action, the OFT has received undertakings from Handpicked Media, an operator of a commercial blogging network, requiring them to clearly identify when promotional comments have been paid for.
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. 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.
Handpicked Media operates a network of bloggers and niche websites across a variety of sectors. Through the signed undertakings, it 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.
Handpicked Media cooperated with the OFT throughout the investigation.
Heather Clayton, Senior Director of OFT's Consumer Group, said:
'The internet plays a key role in how people purchase products and services and the importance of online advertising continues to grow. The OFT has bolstered its expertise in this area and is taking targeted action to ensure that the law is clear, increase business compliance and empower consumers.
'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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