It is official. After notifying the Kardashian/Jenner family of an array of Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) disclosure violations and thereafter giving them over a week to remedy such disclosure failures, Truth in Advertising, Inc. (“TINA”) has filed a complaint with the FTC. As confirmed to TFL and according to the letter from Truth in Advertising to the FTC, “TINA.org reviewed the Instagram accounts for Kim Kardashian-West, Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Kendall Jenner and found a plethora of posts that do not clearly or conspicuously disclose the individuals’ material connections to the companies featured or promoted in the posts or that the posts are advertisements as is required by law.”
Per TINA’s letter, which was signed by its Legal and Executive Directors and provided exclusively to TFL, while “21 of the 108 posts in TINA.org’s sampling were corrected to include #ad at the beginning of the caption; 6 of the 108 posts were edited to include an ad hashtag at the end of the caption; and 4 of the 108 posts were removed from publication,” as of August 25, 2016,” the vast majority of the posts in TINA.org’s database (75 out of 108) remain unchanged, while two were insufficiently edited by adding #spon at the end of the post captions.”
The letter from TINA, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to empowering consumers to protect themselves against false and deceptive marketing," continues on to state:
It is also worth noting that since warning the companies and Kardashian/Jenner women of this deceptive marketing issue, TINA.org has catalogued over 20 more ads disguised as regular Instagram posts that lack disclosures, all of which have been added to TINA.org’s database. These recent findings highlight that this deceptive marketing tactic is widespread and an investigation into all applicable social media posts – not just TINA.org’s sampling – is warranted.TINA.org therefore urges the FTC to commence an investigation into all of the Kardashians/Jenners’ social media posts, take appropriate enforcement action against those companies and individuals found to be violating the law, and ensure that all future social media posts promoting companies are properly and clearly labeled as advertisements.
"TINA.org is happy to see that the Kardashian/Jenners are taking steps in the right direction but this issue does not go away until all ads disguised as ordinary social media posts are clearly labeled as ads," TINA.org Executive Director Bonnie Patten told TFL. "The Kardashian/Jenner family and the companies that have a commercial relationship with them have ignored this law for far too long, and it's time that they were held accountable."
As for whether the FTC will initiate an investigation into the Kardashian/Jenners’ practice of repeatedly failing to disclose sponsored posts is yet to be determined. As we have noted in the past, the FTC has been lax in addressing the famous family’s repeated violations of federal law in connection with the FTC Act, which requires advertisers and endorsers to disclose their material connections so consumers can be made aware. Thus, when a celebrity has been compensated to endorse a product or service and they fail to disclose that fact, both the advertiser AND endorser may be liable. The same holds true if the parties maintain a relationship of some sort, such as a brand ambassadorship. If the parties fail to disclose, the content will be deemed to be misleading and deceptive, and thus, in violation of the FTC Act.
The FTC has the power to legally reprimand the Kardashian/Jenners and order them to immediately refrain from disregarding the FTC Act; to fine them for such failures to abide by the law; and/or to disgorge the famous family of all profits earned in connection with the postings that did not bear disclosures and/or bore improper disclosures.
The reality television family is known to accept compensation in exchange for posting on social media (and a lot of it … according to CR Fashion Book, Kendall, for instance, rakes in $300,000 for a single Instagram post), and given their expansive influence (and repeated disregard for the law), the FTC should absolutely investigate. More to come ...