Labour, Publication

The Menace of Influencers Marketing Fraud and False Advertisement

The traditional ways of advertising known were print media example Newspapers, Magazines; Visuals such as Television and Audio example radio stations. Presently, other types of advertising emerged to include digital marketing on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube.

A good improvement which aligns with our technology and mobile-friendly age. Social media marketing comes into the playing field of Influencers in advertising products or businesses today.

The Oxford dictionary defines advertisement as a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event. It is said to be a person or thing regarded as a means of recommending something.

An Influencer is “someone who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of authority, knowledge, position or relationship with the audience. It means that an influencer is well aware of the impact or power possessed to influence the audience to make a call to action based on the recommendation, suggestion, or advice of the Influencer.

They are actively engaged with their audiences on social media and built a large or decent amount of following. They are known for their expertise on a particular topic or subject or niche example business, relationship. Others are known based on the level of influence gained over time with comedy skits, videos, social commentaries, etc.

 Influencer Marketing is the deliberate or strategic use of influence power to derive purchases for products advertised to the audience. It is no news that influencers are perceived to be demi­gods in the area of sales and marketing.

The influence exerted by giving opinions or reviews of a product, whether positively or negatively affects the buying decision of the audiences. Lately, influencer audiences are seen as a cult following, as sheep led to the slaughter with recent events of problematic influencers capitalizing on gullible audiences to exploit them for gain. I think this is the reason the Urban Dictionary defines an Influencer as a person of less IQ with a lot of dumb followers at their disposal.

Research shows that a micro-influencer earns up to One Hundred Thousand Naira( N 100,000) or more per post, the least amount being Two thousand Naira (N 2,000).

The Macro Influencer, on a larger scale, is said to earn up to $1,000 per post or more. That is about half a Million Naira or more, relying on certain factors like the volume, exposure, engagement, or likeability of fans. They also reach out to companies or businesses to be brand ambassadors too.

Most Influencers do not guarantee sales or purchases but just saying something or reviews on a product is sufficient. A good example is Cristiano Ronaldo, a footballer with 303 million numbers who charges about $1,640,000 per post on Instagram.

Reports show that 92% of consumers rely on the opinion of Influencers before purchasing a particular product. The views of an Influencer are rated to be taken high above celebrities. Influencer Marketing outweighs print advertising as business owners and sellers prefer to engage the services of an influencer than an advertising firm.

Now, facts have shown the overwhelming significance of Influencers and still predict that the world of Influencer Marketing still has more to offer. Does it mean influencers are allowed to only tilt towards embracing the power it yields but abandoning the responsibilities that come with it? What measures, laws, or regulations are in place to curtail the abuse or overly take advantage of vulnerable and unsuspecting audiences?

Is there an ethical code that binds or regulates the activities of Influencer Marketing, is it a free market to milk the followers dry as long as money is made per post through them? Do we forget the audiences having consumer rights protected by law?

False Advertisement and Influencer Marketing Fraud increases daily, cushioned by disclaimers to avoid liability on social media as a way to absolve influencers from taking responsibility for misleading and false advertisements of products.

In Nigeria, the primary legislation governing and protecting consumer rights is the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) 2018. Existing regulatory agencies are APCON, NAFDAC, SON.

The case of SODEINDE v ALLEN & ANOR (2018) LPELR-46782 (CA) defined misrepresentation as “representation or statement that is false in substance and fact. It is the act of making a misleading statement about something”.

This act is rampant amongst the Influencer Marketing Community. To make quick money influencers advertise a product making claims about using the product and its benefits when false or withholding details about the product thereby verifying the trustworthiness of scam businesses.

Most times the influencers include an indemnity clause in their agreement with the companies or businesses they influenced to avoid liability in the event the company or product they are influencing fails to meet expected standards.

It should be noted that Section 125(1) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) protects consumers right and stipulates that any person in the course of marketing any goods or devices makes any false and misleading representation of facts or fails to correct an apparent misapprehension of fact on the part of the consumer will be liable for damages for any person damaged.

An exception is that the company will not be liable where damages are as a result of the clear misunderstanding of the consumer held in the case of AFEGBAI v. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF EDO STATE (2001) 14 NWLR (PT.733).

The ethics of advertising is crucial, online advertising and influencers should prioritize the basic test of advertising which is truth, decency, honesty, and legality. Influencers should endeavour to carry out background checks on the companies and products they advertise for/to their fans and the public. The claims should be the truth and honest before putting them out. Ignorance in law is no excuse. To whom much is given, greater responsibility is required.

Finally, laws and regulations that specifically target online marketing activities are necessary to curb this menace and regulate the activities of online marketers and influencers.


About Uduakobong Innocent Okon

She is an experienced legal practitioner with a demonstrated history of legal experience consultancy,drafting, business relationship agreements, advocacy and administration of legal service industry. she has a flair for writing, social doocumentaries and recently developed an interest in Intellectual Property and Cyber Security Law.