European Commission is stepping up scrutiny of influencers' business practices, backed by research from Utrecht University

Still from Legal Influencer Hub
Still from Influencer Legal Hub.

Europe will take stricter action against misleading posts from influencers that are secretly advertisements. At the same time, the European Commission is offering more help for influencers to comply with European consumer law, through its first-ever EU-wide legal training called the Influencer Legal Hub. The content of the training has been designed by academic experts from the HUMANads project, based at Utrecht University. Associate Professor Catalina Goanta is Principal Investigator of this project. It’s important that the EU and national consumer authorities pay more attention to hidden advertising made by content creators on social media, which is incredibly wide-spread. But at the same time, it’s also important to support content creators, and letting them know what their obligations are is a great first step.

The European Commission and national consumer authorities in Member States have started the first European investigation relating to influencer marketing on social media. In the following weeks, this investigation will attempt to identify testimonials and endorsements that mislead consumers. Next to that, the Commission has launched the Influencer Legal Hub, a collection of materials including animated video trainings and written legal briefs, to instruct anyone making money on social media, how to comply with consumer protection law.

Europe’s First Consumer Legal Training for Influencers

As academics, we’re very happy and proud to work with the European Commission in creating the first legal training on consumer protection for influencers, says Catalina Goanta. To make the instructional videos attractive and comprehensible for content creators, we’ve worked with Sons of Graham, an outstanding animation studio that brought our vision and important legal topics to life.

As academics, we’re very happy and proud to work with the European Commission.

Anyone who is promoting or selling goods, services or brands and getting paid for it, is categorised as a trader in the eyes of European Law, but not everybody knows this. Just like any businesses that interact with consumers, in the European Union, traders have a lot of rules to comply with.

Still from Legal Influencer Hub

Catalina Goanta: We hope The Influencer Legal Hub will have a big impact on influencer education. I can’t stress enough how important it is to share knowledge on this. We’re all influenced by social media in our day to day decisions. Her team of the HUMANads project consists of researchers with diverse disciplinary backgrounds in law, computer science and media studies.

HUMANads, celebrities and small business

From Leeds University, Dr. Sophie Bishop, Associate Professor in Media and Communication has given input to the Influencer Legal Hub. When we think about influencers, we often think about the likes of Kim Kardashian, or the fictional Emily in Paris. Beyond the stereotypical influencer, individuals across creative industries are monetising social media content – from yoga instructors selling online classes to gaming streamers who get access to free or discounted video games. When influencers work alone, they can be vulnerable.

Children trusting influencers’ recommendations

Meanwhile, so are their audiences, stresses the European Commission. Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, says: The business of influencers is thriving and a lot of consumers - often young people or even children - trust their recommendations.

This business model, however, also comes with legal obligations. Influencers too must follow fair commercial practices and their followers are entitled to transparent and reliable information. Our Influencer Legal Hub will be a big help for all actors in the industry to understand the rules. I call on influencers to play by them.

The benefits of the digital society also come with legal tensions. Questions on fairness, openness, and new contractual relationships.

Catalina Goanta: “Influencer marketing is a hot topic. People and businesses are reaping the benefits of the digital society but this also comes with legal tensions. It raises questions on fairness, openness, privacy of consumers and new contractual relationships. My team at HUMANads will keep studying those topics and developing additional resources for the Commission’s Influencer Legal Hub. We will share our findings with policy makers and other interested parties.”


Email press officer Irina Mak at Utrecht University with media enquiries or call  +31 6 41 622 243

One of the video trainings of the Influencer Legal Hub