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SOCIAL MEDIA NEWS: OFT regulation on 'deceptive' promotional blogging

The Office of Fair Trading has cracked down on blogging company Handpicked Media for misleading consumers and has won a pledge from it to fully disclose paid for comments.

The pledge requires Handpicked Media to clearly identify when comments have been paid for. An investigation showed the company was found using people to comment and blog on behalf of its clients using media, including Twitter, a breach of Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

In taking this enforcement, the OFT 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.

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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