“This case deals with an extremely important principle. We know this sort of hidden marketing is common, but we've never been able to prove it before,” said Mattias Grundström from Sweden's Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket – KO) to the Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT) newspaper.
Q-Med had contacted a number of young women who operated popular blogs in Sweden, many of which deal with issues of fashion and beauty. At least one blogger accepted the company's offer to for free lip augmentation treatment featuring a Q-Med product in exchange for positive coverage on her blog.
She neglected to inform her readers that the operation was paid for by Q-Med.
But the actions of another blogger who refused the offer have helped the Consumer Agency, which is headed by the Consumer Ombudsman, build its case.
“The letter was published on another woman's blog and provides extremely important evidence of Q-Med's intentions,” said Grundström.
Following revelations about the free treatment offer, Q-Med said it didn't condone the practice, calling it a mistake, and the editor-in-chief responsible for the publishing the blog at Finest.se also condemned the practice.
The Consumer Agency points to both statements as further evidence that Q-Med viewed the offer as deliberate attempt to draw attention to their products through what appeared to unsolicited endorsements by some of Sweden's most popular beauty bloggers.
Q-Med now has until February 20th to comment on the Consumer Ombudsman's ruling. However, it's possible the case will go on to Sweden's Market Court (Marknadsdomstolen) which could lead to a complete ban on such practices.
The Consumer Agency is also considering making contact with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket), as bloggers who accept gifts are required to pay taxes on them, UNT reports.