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What should all influencers do?

By Emilio Valverde Cascante, IDeas trademarks & patents - 17/02/2021

Nowadays the way people consume and buy products is constantly and rapidly changing, challenging brands, brand owners and state regulators to keep track and even try to be at the forefront of transformations. Social media advertising is one of such challenges. How many of you see ads when entering every day your Facebook, Instagram or even TikTok accounts?

Following the growth of e-commerce and social media advertising, the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC, for its Spanish acronym) of Costa Rica has issued a "Guideline to Promote the Truth in Social Network Advertising by Influencers".

The focus of the guideline is to lead influencers into correct behaviors and responsibilities in order to comply with national advertising and consumer regulations, making sure their social media publications are truth regarding the brands, products and services they promote.

Some of the recommendations set by the MEIC are:

-The commercial relationship between the influencer and the brand must be clearly showed in a visible place;
-Such relationship must be preferably located in the account profile or at the end of each publication;
-The relationship must be precisely stated in the same language as the publication, not to be mixed and confused with hashtags or emojis;
-Terms such as "ambassador for", "ad paid by” or "sponsored by" can be used, but abbreviations that lead to confusion must be avoided.

Currently one of the most popular marketing strategies used by brands and companies is paying influencers to create original content to promote their products and services. Nevertheless, altough the influencers are the ones that publish such content in their own social network accounts, it is important to emphasize that ultimately the brands are the main responsibles for the content in the publications and for what the influencer say about their products and services. By no means brands and companies can assume that they aren't liable for the advertising.  

Therefore, if the influencer gives erroneous or inaccurate information about the product, or highlights a successful personal costumer experience that he did not have, the brand must respond for the lack of truth in the advertising and can be legally liable for misleading and false advertising complaints.

Costa Rica’s MEIC guide is only an effort to regulate the matter. Although currently it does not have a sanctioning character, it establishes the framework in which the national laws and regulations on advertising will be applied in the future for the digital market, mainly Decree No. 40.703 (which regulates e-commerce) and Law No. 7472 (which promotes effective consumer protection). 

Finally, it is important to remember that all advertising in Costa Rica must comply with the provisions of Law No. 7472 and, in the event of any possible breach of advertising regulations, a sanctioning framework is established through the National Consumer Commission (CNC, for its Spanish acronym). 

These type of regulations already take place in countries such as the United States but are still under study and development in Central America. Therefore Costa Rica’s progress and leadership on the matter must be highlighted and supported, as this first step tries to understand and adapt to the challenges of influencer advertising and the still unknown consequences that it can generate in consumers.

Despite the Government’s effort, few influencers follow the recommendations of the guideline. Hopefully all of them begin to comply with t slowly and steadily, bolstering protection and transparency for consumers.

By Emilio Valverde Cascante, IDeas trademarks & patents - 17/02/2021
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