In a bid to safeguard consumer interests, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has tightened its guidelines for financial social media influencers also known as “finfluencers.” It has also put more onus on social media influencers that endorse health or nutrition-related claims.
In its revised guidelines, ASCI said that ‘finfluencers’ can now offer investment-related advice only after being registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). They should prominently display their registration number alongside name and qualifications. “For other financial advice, influencers must possess appropriate credentials such as a licence from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), be qualified as a chartered accountant, hold a company secretaryship, among others. Moreover, they are expected to adhere to all disclosure prerequisites as stipulated by financial sector regulators from time to time,” ASCI added.
The revised guidelines by ASCI comes at a time when SEBI has raised concerns about finfluencers spreading misleading advice regarding investments and stock trading. It is also expected to release a draft discussion paper on regulating finfluencers.
Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, told businessline that inaccurate and deceptive advertising content in categories such as banking, financial services and insurance can significantly impact consumers’ financial security. “For the purposes of advice on financial investments covered by regulators such as SEBI or IRDAI, specific registrations and licences would be needed to be disclosed in all advertisements by social media influencers,” she added.
ASCI has also revised its guidelines for influencers that endorse products that make claims on health and nutrition. It has said that such influencers must hold relevant qualifications such as medical degrees or certification in nursing, nutrition, dietetics, physiotherapy or psychology.
The self-regulatory body added that health and financial influencers must give proper disclosure about their qualifications and registration details on all types of promotional material.“ These disclosures should be superimposed on the visuals prominently and upfront, or mentioned as the opening remark in the video. In case of blogs or text-based posts, disclosures should be stated upfront before the consumer has to read the post. In podcasts or audio posts, they should be called out at the beginning of the advertising content,” the self-regulatory body added.
“Unlike celebrities, whom consumers clearly know the fields they belong to, they may not necessarily know which influencers have the necessary qualification and expertise to provide the right advice and also inform them of any associated risks. To safeguard consumers from the consequences of advice from non-experts, these additional requirements should now be followed by health and financial influencers,” Kapoor added.