Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Billy Kelleher TD has said that the proliferation of on-line bloggers and influencers with undisclosed commercial relationships represents a dangerous and nefarious new departure in the advertising world.

Deputy Kelleher was commenting after receiving a reply from the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vira Jourová on the issue of online bloggers and influencers.

“I explicitly raised the issue of false, misleading or non-transparent advertising from on-line bloggers. These individuals are promoting particular goods or services in return for payment or other benefits from relevant companies without being clear that the recommendations are being paid for. This represents a change and a change in which consumers’ rights must be protected.

“The Commissioner confirmed to me that ‘on-line bloggers remunerated by traders for advertising their products can no longer present themselves as consumers since they are acting for the purposes relating to their trade or profession.

“Under EU Consumer law (Directive 2005/29/EC), falsely representing oneself as a consumer is a blacklisted practice’. It’s quite clear to me that many bloggers and so-called influencers have strayed over the line and can no longer claim to be acting as consumers.

“Recently, abuses within this industry have been exposed by controversial campaigners such as Bloggers Unveiled which generated considerable publicity and debate.

“The Commissioner has also confirmed that it is incumbent on Member States, and in Ireland’s case, Minister Heather Humphreys, to enforce the rules of the Directive. As such, Minister Humphreys must urgently review enforcement of these rules in Ireland.

“I raised this issue with the Commissioner following a recently upheld complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) about a misleading makeup advertisement shared by an online influencer / blogger. The ASAI found that the blogger had photo shopped and filtered her face while advertising a Rimmel foundation.

“Bloggers and would be influencers acting commercially should adhere to the same standards as anyone else advertising products or services. They cannot continue to claim to be merely consumers once they are being paid or receive other forms of reimbursement for promoting a product.

“The Minister needs to get a handle on this issue. Consumers are being hoodwinked and it needs to stop,” concluded Kelleher.