It's the most wonderful time of the year... and also the most hectic time for retail. In a difficult economic climate, to say nothing of the freezing weather which kept many UK shoppers at home last week, many sellers are making the most of online promotion services offered by content creators and influencers on social media. Most of us will be familiar with Instagram and TikTok posts with "ad" or "advert" hashtags, indicating that brands have paid for the social media posts, or offered the featured items for free.

This activity is under the remit of the Competition and Markets Authority ("CMA"), possibly a name we associate more with mergers and monopolies, but which also acts to protect consumers from unfair trading. Use of the "ad" label helps customers to understand whether their favourite influencer just loves a product so much they want to promote it, or whether they are posting a paid-for review at the request of the brand owner.

Who is responsible for getting this right? It's the brand owner rather than the influencer. Retail businesses have to make sure that social media adverts for their goods are properly labelled and not "hidden" - if a post doesn't make it clear when it's advertising, it's up to the brand owner to work with their influencer to correct it.

Working with the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) and CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice), the CMA updated its guidance for businesses last month. A useful New Year's resolution for retailers would be to make sure they are up to speed with the latest information - and avoid the risk of embarrassing and expensive enforcement action in 2023.

It is important that businesses take responsibility for ensuring that paid for endorsements which promote them or their products or services are properly labelled as Ads.

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