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Social media can be a powerful tool for businesses to develop brand recognition, promote their goods or services and connect with their customers. Businesses have a duty under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) not to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct. They must also refrain from conduct which is likely to mislead or deceive. Businesses should then take care and ensure that they avoid making misleading and deceptive claims on their social platforms.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) provided a social media guide for small to large businesses who engage with customers or clients on social media. It is particularly helpful to assist businesses to meet their obligations. This article will explore the key takeaways from the guide.

1. Businesses Should Not Make False, Misleading or Deceptive Claims on Social Media

Section 18 of the ACL interprets false, misleading or deceptive claims broadly. This provision catches any conduct which does or is likely to mislead or deceive. You can also be liable and infringe section 18 innocently, where you did not have the intention of doing so.

2. Businesses Should Minimise Their Risk With Social Media

The best way to manage risk on your social media profiles is not to make statements you would not make in other advertising. A business should develop and clearly display house rules and block users who breach these rules.

3. Businesses Should Not Allow Others to Make False, Misleading or Deceptive Claims in Comments

The ACCC stated that there are circumstances where businesses will be held liable for misleading comments left by users on their social media pages if they fail to remove them.

4. Businesses Should Monitor Their Social Media Pages

Businesses should vigilantly monitor their social media pages, but the ACCC will consider the business’ size when determining if they have adequately done so. The ACCC will also take into account the number of likes or followers the business has. Businesses must understand that social media operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

5. Businesses Should Offer Customers Refunds

The ACCC noted that a business should offer a refund to any customer who purchased a product or service due to false or misleading statements on social media. A refund is the business’ safest way to ensure the ACCC does not penalise them for breach of the ACL.

6. Businesses Should Delete False, Misleading or Deceptive Comments

Although a business can respond to misleading comments on their social media page, this may not be sufficient, and it is best to remove them.

Key Takeaways

Social media is an excellent platform for communicating with customers. However, businesses that mismanage their social media accounts, or make unsubstantiated claims increase the risks of breaching the ACL. The ACCC can take court action against a business if it believes that they have breached the law and have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct on social media.

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If you are unsure about whether your social media policies are compliant with the ACL, contact LegalVision today. Our consumer lawyers will be more than happy to assist. Call us on 1300 544 755 for a fixed fee quote today.

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