In a bold move to safeguard consumers from deceptive practices in online promotions, France has officially adopted legislation that could land influencers in jail if they violate the new regulations. These stringent laws aim to crack down on misleading and fake commercial activities, including the promotion of lottery and betting games, as well as the advertisement of tobacco and certain restricted products.

This groundbreaking legislation marks the first legal definition of influencers’ role in Europe. After successfully passing through various parliamentary stages, the cross-party bill received unanimous approval in a Senate vote on Wednesday. Influencers, who hold significant sway over their large subscriber bases and shape trends, often endorse products without transparently disclosing their financial compensation for advertising.

French lawmakers highlighted the growing number of online scams as the motivation behind clarifying the boundaries of commercial activities and outlining the responsibilities and obligations of influencers. The new laws explicitly prohibit “actors of commercial influence” from advertising lottery or gambling games on platforms lacking measures to prevent minors from accessing them. The promotion of cosmetic surgery, certain financial products, medical devices, and tobacco is also strictly forbidden.

Violations of these regulations could result in severe penalties, including imprisonment for up to two years or fines of up to €300,000 (£257,000; $322,000). However, there remain concerns about enforcing the rules effectively, particularly when influencers operate outside France’s jurisdiction while their accounts remain visible within the country.

France boasts a significant influencer presence, with over 150,000 influencers estimated by the Ministry of the Economy, Finance, and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty. With this new legislation in place, the French authorities are taking a proactive stance in protecting consumers and ensuring transparency and fairness in the rapidly evolving landscape of online advertising.