- Australian influencers are posting about a luxury car loan company along with photographs of them with flashy, new luxury vehicles.
- But the relationship between the company and the influencers is not clear, with both parties interacting but without obvious disclosure.
- Promotion of luxury car loans without including balanced information, or using ephemeral services like Instagram Stories, may violate the Australian consumer watchdog’s suggested guidelines for advertising financial products.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
Just before New Year’s Eve, Mitch Third was celebrating.
In a December 30 Instagram post, the Gold Coast resident posted to his 24,000 followers about “the most challenging year of my life”, with an accompanying photograph of the entrepreneur and former professional rugby player leaning against a high-end Tesla Model X.
The exact photograph was posted to another account belonging to luxury car and home loan brokerage Finance Your Way, tagging Third.
“Enjoy the car Mitch!”, the caption read.
Third’s account commented “Thanks team amazing experience! Can’t recommend enough” with a couple of emojis.
This interaction is one of a few involving a handful of popular Australian influencer accounts and Finance Your Way in the last few weeks of 2020.
Mitchell Orval (289,000 followers), Troy Candy (141,000 followers) and his partner Anita Cassin (53,000 followers) all either posted to Instagram or were tagged in posts by the brokerage account in December.
What is not clear, however, is whether these influencers were paid or received services in return for promoting the brand.
Finance Your Way did not respond to an interview request from Business Insider Australia.
Both Third and Candy told Business Insider Australia that they had personal connections to the brokerage company. Third said that he paid the standard fees for his loan, Candy did not respond to further questions about their relationship, and Orval did not respond to a media request.
The murky nature of what entails disclosure of a commercial relationship means that it’s unclear whether this was sponsored content, a favour for a friend, or just an authentic and impartial endorsement.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned creators in the past to clearly mark sponsored content or face possible penalty. But, as of last year, they had never penalised a creator for failing to do so.
In the posts, the influencers’ and the brokerage’s accounts sometimes interact with each other, tag each other, or comment thanking the brokerage.
None of the influencers’ posts directly recommend taking on a loan, instead vouching for the service.
There is no rule or law against an individual using their platform to suggest a friend’s business. However, the blending of a creator’s personal life and their social media accounts — which are, for all intents and purposes, advertising platforms — can make it difficult for their audiences to distinguish what is paid and what isn’t.
And some have raised eyebrows about the influencers targeting younger audiences with advertising to take on luxury cars loans.
Hosts of the Australian podcast Outspoken, Amy, Sophie and Kate Taeuber — who first drew attention to the influencers promoting Finance Your Way on a January 4 episode — expressed concerns about the broker’s business model.
“Although I think it’s irresponsible to be lending to young people in that way, it’s a very clever business move,” one host said.
“[Their audience] are young kids who want to live that influencer lifestyle. So these men are putting up these posts saying ‘you can live this lifestyle simply by taking a loan.'”
Additionally, none of the posts explicitly discuss the terms of the loans: length, interest rates or any other qualifying factors.
Failing to provide a balanced account while advertising a loan could contravene the recommendations of the ACCC.
An ACCC spokesperson declined to comment about the business practice, but pointed Business Insider Australia to the Commission’s voluntary guidelines for advertising financial services, “Advertising financial products and services (including credit): Good practice guidance“.
Additionally, Third’s use of the ephemeral Instagram Story feature to show off his purchase may also go against another suggested aspect of best practice.
“Promoters should consider the appropriateness of using new media channels for advertising if content limitations mean there is insufficient space to provide balanced information,” it reads.
But these guidelines are purely suggestions, and breaking them wouldn’t risk invoking sanctions from the ACCC.
For now, these influencers are free to promote a way for their audience to live like them, even if they don’t have thousands of followers themselves.
And those consumers are certain to be footing the bill themselves.
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