Issues concerning the relationship between the Swedish Marketing Practices Act (MPA) and advertising through blogs and social media has been a subject of discussion in Sweden during the last year. In order to provide further guidance to bloggers and companies promoting their products on blogs and social media the Swedish Consumer Agency has recently published guidelines for marketing through blogs and social media.
It is confirmed that there is no general prohibition against recommendations or writings about companies, products or services on blogs or in social media. However, if a blogger receives compensation for writing about a company or a company's products or services, then the MPA applies. According to the guideline it does not matter if the compensation is pecuniary, free goods or services or any other type of compensation. The mere fact that the blogger is compensated means that a message constitutes marketing.
The principles of the guideline can briefly be described as follows.
- All marketing, including marketing through blogs and social media, is covered by the rules of the MPA.
- The recipients of marketing must be able to immediately and with ease identify the communication as marketing. It should also be made clear who is behind the marketing, i.e. advertiser.
- If a blogger is paid, or otherwise compensated for exposing a company's business or products, posts must clearly be identified as marketing in order to avoid confusion of the marketing with other content. For instance the Swedish consumer agency states that the marketing can be disclosed by marking posts with "#advertising," "#ad," "advertising," or "ad" using different colours, fonts etc. at the beginning and end of posts as well as stating the advertiser's name.
- Precaution applies when marketing to children. It is forbidden to exhort or invite children to buy products or services.
- Marketing that does not comply with legal requirements can be prohibited. By violating that prohibition both the blogger and the advertiser can be subject to injunctions or fines.
The guideline from the Swedish Consumer Agency is a laudable attempt to provide guidance to an increasingly important marketing field. Nonetheless, many recommendations are quite general and might prove to be difficult for marketers to apply in individual cases. In anticipation of case law from the Swedish Market Court many issues subsequently run a risk of remaining uncertain. Given the publication of the guideline it would also appear likely that the Swedish Consumer Agency will now be prepared to pursue matters in courts in order to establish such case law.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.