The Australian court has ruled that blogger Belle Gibson, and her brand The Whole Pantry, misled the public in thinking that proceeds from the sales of her books and apps would go to charity.
Gibson may now face hefty fines, the latest in a series of events that revealed her lies about having cancer and subsequent cure by eating healthily, despite selling health and diet content with this story.
According to The Metro, she could be fined up to AUS$200,000 (£125,000) personally, while her company could be fined up to AUS$1.1 million (£685,000) at a penalty hearing later in the month.
The key breach of trust, and the basis of the ruling, is that Gibson told the public that “a large part” of the income of the company was donated to charities. A filing to the Federal Court of Australia revealed that only AUS$10,000 (£6,224) of the earnings of AUS$420,000 (£261,000) from her company Inkerman Road Nominees went to charity. Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, which was one of the charities named to receive money, alerted the authorities when it didn't receive any cash.
Gibson had success publishing content around health and wellness, via The Whole Pantry, but was forced to admit that she’d lied about having cancer in 2015, when she admitted to Women’s Weekly magazine that “none of it’s true”.
In the UK, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has issued fresh guidelines for brands and influencers around how to manage sponsored posts and guidelines, in order to not mislead audiences. However, experts likened policing influencers to playing a game of ‘whack-a-mole’, questioning whether guidelines are enough to protect consumers.