ACCC calls on Google and Facebook to act on fake ads and celebrity endorsements

The ACCC has called on Facebook and Google to put a stop to the celebrity endorsement scams currently plaguing websites and social media.

Ads featuring fictitious quotes and doctored images of celebrities promoting products such as skin care creams, weight loss pills, or investment schemes have been appearing on the internet over the past year with Kyle Sandilands, Lisa Wilkinson, Shark Tank’s Steve Baxter and Studio Ten’s Jessica Rowe being among those used.

A scam ad featuring Shark Tank’s Steve Baxter

The ACCC says its Scamwatch website has received almost 200 reports about the scam adverts in 2018 with losses totalling more than $142,000. People aged 45 and older accounted for 63% of losses to these scams. Women are more likely than men to be a victim.

“Most of the reports to Scamwatch involve these scam advertisements running on Google ad banners or as ads in Facebooks news feeds. These tech giants must do more to quickly suspend ads, as every time consumers click on a scam ad, they are at risk of losing money,” said ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard.

The celebrities affected have also been vocal in their irritation with the ads, expressing their concerns on social media.

Antonia Sanda, Facebook ANZ’s head of communications, told Mumbrella: “We do not allow adverts that are misleading or false on Facebook, and we remove adverts that violate our Advertising Policies.

“From January to March 2018 we took down 837m pieces of spam, nearly 100% of which we found and flagged before anyone reported it. We also disabled about 583m fake accounts — most of which were disabled within minutes of registration. This is in addition to the millions of fake account attempts we prevent daily from ever registering with Facebook.

“New technology like machine learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence helps us find more bad content, more quickly. We are also investing heavily in more people to review content that is flagged. From time to time people may see an ad that they believe is false and we encourage people to report these so that we can take steps to prevent these from appearing.”

A Google spokesperson added: “We have clear policies against ads that mislead or trick users into interacting with them. When we find ads that violate our policies, we remove them.”

Mumbrella understands Google suspended more than 7,000 AdWords accounts for policy violations last year, up from 1,400 in 2016.

The ACCC’s Rickard warned consumers to be vigilant about fake celebrity endorsements: “It is vital to research and read independent reviews of the company. Consumers should verify celebrity endorsement of products from the celebrity’s official website or social media account.

“If you are caught up in one of these scams, call your bank immediately to try and arrange a chargeback and to stop any further debits to your credit card.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.