March 28, 2023

Possible tightening of the law, complaint for fraud, outline of a professional framework: the pressure is mounting in France to regulate the sector of influencers, men and women sandwich stars of social networks at the heart of many controversies.

The challenge is the “regulation of a jungle” and the end of a “legal vacuum”, assured Wednesday the deputies Arthur Delaporte (PS) and Stéphane Vojetta (app. Renaissance), presenting their common bill.

Among other things, it plans to create a legal status for influencers and to prohibit them from promoting certain products (medicines, financial investments, etc.).

The text will be examined by the Assembly by the end of March.

On Monday, it was a collective called AVI (Help for victims of influencers) which announced the launch of legal action by dozens of people, in particular for “fraud” and “breach of trust”.

They believe they have been scammed by investing in financial products touted by famous influencers, including the couple Marc and Nadé Blata.

– Billions –

These announcements follow by a few months the start of a high-profile conflict last year, which plunged the sector into turmoil: it opposes rapper Booba and Magali Berdah, boss of the big influencer agency Shauna Events.

The first criticizes the second for promoting scams (goods not received, non-compliant products, etc.); in return, she accuses him of cyberstalking. The court opened two investigations.

In the process, the government initiated a series of meetings in December and launched a public consultation, with the aim of better regulating practices. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire will report on any decisions by March.

These controversies have allowed the general public to discover in a new light the concept of “influencers”, people who distribute content on their social networks and whose opinions can influence the consumption patterns of their subscribers.

The biggest are stars and have millions of subscribers on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok.

A vector of advertising that has not escaped brands: called “influencer marketing”, the remuneration of influencers for promoting products has exploded in recent years.

In 2021, it represented a global market estimated at some 12 billion euros, a simple publication on social networks can bring in several tens of thousands of euros to the biggest influencers.

– “Paying friends” –

On Monday, the repression of fraud (DGCCRF) published a damning investigation into the commercial practices of the sector.

Of more than 60 agencies and influencers targeted since 2021, 60% failed to comply with advertising and consumer rights regulations.

On the menu, deception on the products sold, promotion of risky sports bets, even injections “by beauticians and non-health professionals”, according to the DGCCRF.

Faced with these controversies, agencies specializing in the relationship between brands and influencers announced on January 18 the creation of a first professional federation, Umicc (Union of influencer professions and content creators).

It intends to impose rules on its members, including the obligation to have tax residence in France for agencies and in the European Union for content creators.

This would effectively exclude celebrities operating from Dubai, a tax-efficient residence popular with influencers.

For media economist Olivier Bomsel, the urgency is to “give publisher status” to influencers, to remove the ambiguity about their relationship with the public.

“You have to take them as billboards,” he told AFP. “It’s important to show that they have commercial status and not free friend status. They are paying and paid friends.”

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