Britain pulls plug on stars who don’t disclose when they’re paid to use Twitter

CELEBRITIES who endorse products on Twitter without declaring that they are paid to do so may face court action, the Government’s consumer watchdog said yesterday.

Britain’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has already clamped down on one PR firm which was secretly paying bloggers to talk about products. Now actors, pop stars and TV presenters who “plug” luxury goods to thousands of fans could face similar action under consumer protection laws.

Elizabeth Hurley’s Twitter page contains more than ten references to Estee Lauder, the cosmetics company which has employed the actress for 17 years.

“Packing for Barcelona … about to slap on some Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess fake tan,” she tweeted in May, while in September she wrote: “Oooh, best mascara ever, Estee Lauder’s Sumptuous.” The actress’s representatives refused to say whether she is required to tweet under her contract.

Henry Holland, the fashion designer, tweeted about his new Range Rover twice last year. “I can’t wait for my new Range Rover!!!,” he wrote. “It’s the dream.” Range Rover apologised last night (Sunday) for Mr Holland’s tweet, which did not mention that he had received the car free as part of a promotion.

Lily Allen, who is followed by 2.5 million people on Twitter, uploaded a picture of vodka bottles accompanied by the tweet: “Whoop Whoop!!! Grey Goose in the house.” Grey Goose provides drinks at Ms Allen’s clothes shop, Lucy in Disguise, in London. Asked about a connection, the singer’s representative said: “It’s nobody’s business.”

Peter Andre, the singer with 669,000 followers, was paid by Costa Coffee to launch their Flat White coffee last year. “At BBC Studio,” Andre wrote in October. “Yeay [sic] they have a Costa Coffee here. Need an espresso.” A spokeswoman for Costa Coffee denied that the company had asked him to tweet.

Although the OFT refuses to discuss specific cases, an official said research showed that people were “very concerned” about the “rules on blogging”, including paid-for adverts masquerading as personal recommendations.

“People shouldn’t be misled,” the official added. “If someone has been paid to advertise a product they should declare it. It’s not specific to celebrities.” If warnings are ignored, the OFT can seek an order that could lead to a criminal prosecution and an unlimited fine.

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