JEDDAH: Those who promote and advertise fraudulent goods on social media sites have been warned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution that they could face up to three years in prison or a SR1 million ($267,000) fine, or both.
Victims of such misselling told Arab News of the emotional and financial costs of falling prey to such schemes.
Noaf Abdulaziz from Jeddah said that she had been deceived into purchasing products that were counterfeit. “There is this one very well-known influencer at a high caliber of fame who was promoting her own makeup brand. Due to her status and constant promotion of her products on social media, I figured they must be legit. I bought them (the products) and threw them out the same day. They weren’t anything like how she had described or promised. I felt like I was fooled.”
This is not an isolated incident for Abdulaziz. She said she wasted SR400 on a travel kit for women that was promoted on social media. “When I came to use it, everything fell apart and nothing worked. I paid for nothing. It was a waste,” she said. “I got tired of all the fakeness and money-hungry people who kept lying to us.”
It is not only counterfeit beauty products that are being promoted.
Kawthar Ali, a mother of two, revealed how the nature of social media’s promotions of fraudulent products could affect a married couple. “A famous and admired influencer gave birth exactly four months after I did. Naturally, I followed her every move and saw the high-standard products she bought and advised to buy for our babies. I could not afford most of the mothercare products she promoted but I still insisted that my husband pay for them because as a mother you want the best of the best for your children,” she told Arab News.
“This created a rift between my husband and I when the products were not up to par with how she promoted them.”
When the fines were first announced in 2017, the Consumer Protection Association urged consumers to be aware of the exaggerated language that influencers can use to promote products or services and to remind themselves that influencers are being paid.
“I’ve witnessed too many people I know being affected by promotions. I think people need to remember that these are all paid promotions and everything is exaggerated; they are being robbed of their time, effort and money by individuals who are profiting from lying to their viewers. It’s like a betrayal or a break of trust,” Manal Ibrahim, a designer in Jeddah, told Arab News.
Ibrahim also provides an alternate method for consumers to be informed about a product and avoid being fooled by influencers. “Certain brands have promotional pages on Instagram. This way a person can go to the page of the company, research the products themselves and read reviews on them before deciding to pay.”