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Online 'influencers' handed fines by consumer watchdog

Two Latvian online 'influencers' have been handed fines by Latvia's consumer watchdog

The Consumer Rights Protection Center (PTAC) said the pair had violated consumers' "collective interests" and engaged in unfair commercial practices.

Adriana Miglāne was fined 1,500 euros and Katrīne Sauliete was fined 1,000 euros.

According to PTAC  the Instagram stars published information on their channels concerning food supplements without indicating the material was in fact a paid-for advertisement and that a legal requirement to note that food supplements do not replace a balanced diet was not complied with. In essence the influencers were providing commercial endorsements without acknowledging the fact. 

"In the course of the investigation, PTAC received confirmation from companies whose products the persons had featured on their websites for advertising purposes, that an agreement had been concluded with the persons regarding advertising activities on the website and the persons had received remuneration / gifts for it. Thus, PTAC found that the persons were engaging in misleading commercial practices, because when creating the content on the website, it was concealed that the information published on the website was of a commercial nature, i.e. advertising provided for remuneration, gifts or other material benefits," PTAC said. 

The fines were only issued after the influencers had repeatedly failed to comply with advice about how to flag up advertising material in a proper way, the watchdog said, noting that using hashtags such as #cooperation was not sufficient.

However, it is worth noting that the majority of influencers seem more willing to take advice on board and remedy potential problems before reaching the penalty stage. In 2019 and 2020, PTAC probed 35 cases of potential influencer advertising, it said. Of that number 32 cases were resolved by influencers taking voluntary measures after being contacted; 1 case was completed without finding violations, but the influencer getting advice on how to ensure compliance, and in the two cases above, penalties were ultimately deemed necessary.

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