Case reference: CRE-E-25932
Complainant: OFT own-initiative investigation
Investigation against Handpicked Media Limited (Handpicked Media)
The engaging and remuneration of individuals in respect of online
promotional activity in circumstances where it is not clearly
identifiable to consumers that the promotion has been paid for.
Enterprise Act 2002, Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations
This investigation was opened by the OFT on its own initiative to
investigate the engagement by Handpicked Media of bloggers on a
commercial basis. The OFT was concerned that individuals engaged by
Handpicked Media were publishing online content which promoted the
activities of Handpicked Media's clients, without sufficient
disclosures in place to make it clearly identifiable to consumers that
the promotions had been paid for. This included publication on website
blogs and microblogs (for example Twitter).
As a result of its investigation, the OFT formed the view that
Handpicked Media may be operating in breach of the Consumer Protection
from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). In particular, the OFT
identified evidence of commercial practices which, it alleged to
constituted misleading omissions contrary to Regulation 3(4)(b) under
the provisions of Regulation 6 of the CPRs, in that the promotion did
not disclose material information (i.e. that the promotion had been
paid for or otherwise remunerated), or provided that information in a
manner that was unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely. As a
result, this caused or was likely to cause the average consumer to
take a transactional decision that would not have been taken
constituted unfair commercial practices, contrary to paragraph 11 of
Schedule 1 of the CPRs, as they involved the use of editorial content
in the media to promote a product where Handpicked Media had paid for
the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or
sounds clearly identifiable by the consumer.
During the investigation Handpicked Media engaged constructively with
the OFT and affirmed its commitment to full disclosure and transparency
in relation to its activities.
As required in this case under the Enterprise Act 2002, the OFT
consulted with Handpicked Media to ensure that the identified
infringements are not continued or repeated. Following this
consultation, Handpicked Media signed undertakings to comply with the
The Undertakings require that Handpicked Media does not continue or
repeat the conduct of concern in this case. For example, they prohibit
any future promotion that does not clearly identify, in a manner
prominently displayed with the editorial content such that it would be
unavoidable to the average consumer, that the promotion has been paid
for or otherwise remunerated.
Having secured these Undertakings, the OFT has now closed its
investigation into this matter.