Senators press probe into proliferation of online celebrity endorsement scams

(BUSINESS MIRROR) Senate probers are poised to mount an inquiry into the proliferation of internet scam cases “faking online  celebrity endorsements and deceptive social media postings” in dubious advertisements selling assorted unregistered food and drug products.

Paving the way for a thorough probe, Senator Jinggoy Estrada filed Senate Resolution No. 666, citing the risks the scam poses to unsuspecting consumers as he noted “the spread of online marketing materials and impostor pages or accounts promoting unregistered products that promise treatment for various ailments or wellness benefits using the names and pictures of local personalities and celebrities.”

Estrada aired a warning that “these advertisements mislead consumers into believing that these celebrities are using and endorsing food and medicinal products that are actually unregistered before the proper health authorities and not yet approved for mass distribution and public consumption.”

The Senator aired serious concerns that the “barrage of bogus medicinal remedies on social media platforms is viewed and even shared by thousands of consumers, providing them with inaccurate and false information about the efficacy, quality, and safety of food, drugs, and health products,” Estrada said.

Moreover, he pointed out that “the circulation and proliferation of fraudulent online advertisements are ‘clear and blatant violations of the Consumer Act,’ which, the senator notes penalize the dissemination of deceptive and misleading sales promotion practices.”

At the same time, Estrada cited reports on the alleged product endorsements of a popular internist and cardiologist with a huge social media following, regarding a “miracle food” in the form of mixed nuts.

The senator also cited the case of a high-profile physician and public-health expert, whose name and pictures were used to imply his personal endorsement of a product as a cure for diabetes.

“There is an urgent need to protect consumers against the consumption of unregistered and potentially harmful food and health products through the strict enforcement of the provisions of the Consumer Act and regulation of fraudulent advertisements on social media platforms,” Estrada stressed.

Moreover, the senator cited “the need to identify and address possible loopholes in the country’s existing laws and regulations, emphasizing the importance of updating their provisions, considering the extensive use of social media platforms and cyberspace, as well as the alarming use of maliciously manipulated images, spliced videos, and fabricated statements in the promotion of food and health products.”