Department of Consumer Affairs aims to work closely with influencers, content creators, and agencies to foster a responsible and sustainable industry

Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, organized a round table discussion with influencers, content creators, and their agencies on the recently released guidelines for celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers on social media platforms. The guidelines, titled “Endorsements Know-hows!”, aim to ensure that individuals do not mislead their audiences when endorsing products or services and that they are in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act and any associated rules or guidelines. The roundtable discussion took place on April 19, 2023, at 10:30 AM at Mumbai.

The roundtable was chaired by Sh. Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt of India, who emphasized the importance of education for influencers and creators regarding laws and regulations. He also reassured attendees that the government does not intend to stifle creativity and the industry but to protect consumer interests without hindering creativity and business. Sh. Singh suggested the formation of a self-regulatory organization for influencer marketing companies and the development of a creator or influencer recognition program in collaboration with the industry.

Sh. Singh also exploring partnerships with industry, and influencer marketing companies to develop and disseminate resources, such as the guidelines and FAQs, to help influencers and creators better understand and comply with the guidelines. He also acknowledged that there is a significant role that influencers and content creators play in shaping consumer opinions and purchasing decisions. As the industry continues to evolve, it is essential for all stakeholders to work together to maintain a high level of transparency, integrity, and professionalism in influencer marketing.

Sh. Anupam Mishra, Joint Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt of India, presented a detailed presentation on the recently released guidelines, Endorsement Know-Hows. He stated that Department is actively encouraging influencers, content creators, and their agencies to provide feedback on the guidelines and their implementation. This feedback will help the Department identify areas for improvement and make necessary amendments to ensure that the guidelines remain relevant and effective in safeguarding consumer interests and promoting responsible influencer marketing practices.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO, Advertising Standards Council of India, called for digital platforms to take responsibility for advertising and the structuring of influencers. She also proposed the development of a model draft agreement between influencers and brands and urged platforms to incorporate guidelines for misleading ads in their community guidelines.

The industry raised concerns about the recognition of platform disclosure tools and sought clarity on audio and video advertising on social media. They emphasized the need for swift enforcement, considering the vast scope of the influencer marketing industry.

The dialogue was welcomed by creators, influencers, agencies, and the industry, who acknowledged the significant contribution of influencer marketing to the country’s GDP. Key observations and suggestions from the meeting included the practice of self-imposed reasonable care and precaution by creators and influencers. They expressed optimism that regulation would strengthen and empower the industry.

The industry agreed on the importance of education for influencers and creators, as well as the role of influencer marketing in advertising. They stressed that content should have disclosures that are hard to miss for consumers and emphasized the need for creator empowerment as a top focus.

The guidelines, released in response to the rapidly growing digital world, require that endorsements be made in simple, clear language, using terms such as “advertisement,” “sponsored,” “collaboration,” or “paid promotion.” Individuals must not endorse any product or service that they have not personally used or experienced or in which due diligence has not been done by them. Disclosures must be placed in the endorsement message in a clear, prominent, and hard-to-miss manner.

The guidelines align with the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, which established guidelines for protecting consumers from unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements. The Department of Consumer Affairs published Guidelines for prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022 on June 9, 2022, outlining the criteria for valid advertisements and the responsibilities of manufacturers, service providers, advertisers, and advertising agencies.

The round table discussion marked a significant step toward fostering a transparent and responsible influencer marketing industry, ensuring consumer protection and empowering creators and influencers in their endeavors.

Following the round table discussion, the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, reiterated its commitment to working closely with influencers, content creators, and their agencies to ensure transparency, compliance, and growth in the influencer marketing industry. The discussion highlighted the need for ongoing dialogue and collaboration between all stakeholders to address concerns and foster a responsible and sustainable industry that benefits both consumers and creators.

The round table was attended by Influencers, namely, Aanchal Agrawal, Prasad Ved Pathak, Rakesh Tiwari and Kushagra Tayal. It was also attended by Mr Gurpreet Singh, One Digital Entertainment, Dhruv Chitgropekar, Big Bang Social, Jalak Raval, Taag One, Ritesh Ujjwal, Confluence, Ajay Kulkarni, Barcode Entertainment, Suneil Chawla,, Viraj Seth, Monk Entertainment, Kevin Lee, Yuvaa and Shweta Purandare, AdExpert.

In the coming months, the Department of Consumer Affairs plans to organize more such round table discussions. These events will provide an opportunity for influencers, content creators, and their agencies to ask questions, seek clarification, and share their experiences and best practices in implementing the guidelines.

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