Japan to regulate stealth marketing

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The building that houses the Consumer Affairs Agency, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, is seen in 2021.

The government plans to crack down on stealth marketing, a practice in which products or services are promoted covertly, usually online.

Stealth marketing will be added to the list of “misrepresentations” prohibited under the Law against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations.

Stealth marketing promotes commodities without informing the target audience that they are actually watching an advertisement. Advertisers usually pay online influencers to collaborate in such enterprises.

The Law against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations prohibits representations of products or services that significantly overstate their qualities. However, there is no law that directly regulates stealth marketing.

Some experts say the act of not informing consumers that they are seeing paid advertisements inhibits independent and rational choices.

A new provision will thus be added to the law’s definition of “misleading representations,” which states that it is difficult for ordinary consumers to discern whether or not a product is being advertised by a business.

The government plans to issue a public notice around June next year, at the earliest. If a business violates the stipulations of the public notice, an order can be issued to prevent recurrence. Failure to comply will result in penalties.