'Influencers' warned to clearly state when social media messages are advertising

Television personality and fashion mogul Kim Kardashian West attends The Fashion Group International's annual "Night of Stars" gala at Cipriani Wall Street on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in New York. Canada's competition watchdog says it wants consumers to be clearly warned when advertisers have a close relationship with the people who praise their products through social media accounts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

GATINEAU, Que. - Canada's competition watchdog says it wants consumers to be told when advertisers have a close relationship with the people who praise their products through social media accounts.

The Competition Bureau says it has sent letters to nearly 100 brands and agencies involved in what's called "influencer marketing."

Some of the biggest social media influencers are global celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, but even lesser-known people with a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram following can receive free products to promote or, in some cases, a fee.

The federal competition agency says influencers should clearly disclose what they've received from the brand or marketing agency and base any reviews or testimonials on their personal experience.

The Competition Bureau also warns that businesses that are marketing products or services through influencers could violate rules against sales or misleading content.

The bureau's commissioner, Matthew Boswell, says consumers must be able to know if opinions expressed by influencers are independent or an advertisement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2019.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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