20230815 illicit trade
Researchers found that counterfeiters are leveraging the popularity and trust of social media influencers to promote their illegal wares. Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: Influencers and businesses take note – if you are planning to promote a business through social media you need to make sure your permits and licences are in place. Failure to do so will draw a penalty of up to Dh10,000 in Abu Dhabi, with the possibility of the business being shut down.

On June 20, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) reminded businesses and influencers to abide by the regulations for practising promotional activities in the emirate.

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So, if you have a small business, like a restaurant or café, and you are looking to boost sales by inviting a social media influencer, there are licences and permits that you and the influencer need to have in place, or face penalties.

Three rules to remember

In its announcement, ADDED advised businesses and influencers to follow these three rules:

• Influencers must obtain a licence from ADDED for advertising services through websites.
• Economic establishments must obtain a permit from ADDED for any advertisements (advertising, promotional, or marketing).
• Economic establishments must ensure they have a valid licence issued by ADDED when contracting with influencers and social networking sites.

ADDED emphasised that having a permit from the UAE Media Council does not exempt social media influencers from obtaining the necessary licences and permits from ADDED to practise advertising services via electronic platforms, to avoid fines and penalties for violators.

Cost of obtaining a business licence to practice advertising services:

Dh1,250 for individual establishments
Dh5,000 for businesses

Penalties that you face

As per ADDED, the fines and penalties are as follows:

- First violation – fine of Dh3,000
- Second violation – fine of Dh6,000
- Third violation – fine of Dh8,000
- Fourth violation – fine of Dh10,000

The authority may also issue a decision to close the facility.

Guidelines for social media advertisements

It is also important to note that the National Media Council has also issued guidelines and special conditions that ads on social media need to meet:

• The advertisement must be identified on social media clearly.
• The advertisement must appear distinctly and separately from media or written material or any other material.
• Clear borders should be placed between the advertisement and other content and time intervals should be placed in the event of a broadcast, for example, the ad article should have ‘advertisement material’, ‘Advertisement’ and other indicative terms.
• Disclosure must be made clearly in case there is any material or in-kind payment made by the issuing authority for publications or articles published on social media, websites, or blogs.
• Clear language should be used that leaves no ambiguity regarding the identity of the advertisement and being paid for, through the following:

- Using hashtag "#ad" or "#paid_ad" phrase clearly that is not accompanied by many hash tags in such a way that they are hard to see.
- The use of the words "thank you for ... the advertiser" or "in cooperation with..." is not sufficient to disclose whether the advertisement is paid or not.
- A clear and legible font should be used.
- Avoid very small font that is unreadable or that has a colour like the background colour as it is hard to read.
- Disclosure should be put in a conspicuous place for readers.
- In general, disclosure should be made at the beginning of the content or description.
- Avoid placing disclosure in a place that requires users to move to another page or content (e.g., the disclosure may not be placed under a "Read More" link).
- If the content is in the form of video, it must be stated verbally through the video (in addition to writing it in description of the video).
- In case the advertisement is made by using stories or videos that are published on the account, the disclosure should be published in the picture, first or second or at the beginning of the broadcasting if any, which applies to all social media accounts.