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Do You Need to Apply for the UAE Social Media Influencer License?

Social Media Influencer
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Big and small brands across the UAE often brainstorm “how do we talk to a specific demographic group? How do we talk to the wider GCC? Also, how do we reach young consumers?”. The answer, according to many analysts, is via social media influencers.

A social media influencer is someone who promotes a product or service online. Because they have access to a broad audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. In return, a brand pays a fee for posting any promotional content. Brands love social media influencers because they can create trends. Also, encourage their followers to buy products or services they promote.

Understanding the Law

Historically, all Emirates have had laws on the books that require that all ‘business activity‘ is licensed. Business activity is deemed as any activity that generates a stream of income. The 2018 Electronic Media Regulations enacted to regulate social media influencers does not include a specific definition for social media influencers. Instead, the regulations describe that any online activities, which if carried out for commercial purposes, would require a license from the National Media Council (NMC).

Paid influencers operating without a license can be given a fine of AED 5000. According to Nasser Al Tamimi, manager of Media Licensing Department at the National Media Council (NMC) “We are discovering new numbers (of paid influencers operating without a license) every day. When we encounter any illegal activity, we warn them, and if it is repeated, we will subject them to a fine.”

The social media influencer license has been received positively by brands, influencers, and consumer groups. The regulations require that the social media account holder is responsible for the content posted by their accounts. You can’t post anything that is blatantly false or misleading without facing any consequences. Influencers, therefore, are more likely to research the service or product that they promote. Previously, a significant fee might entice some to act unethically.

Dealing with Licensed Influencer

From a business perspective, dealing with a licensed individual who is legally accountable provides greater confidence. It’s not just an anonymous person online that may or may not be who they are claiming to be. It also raised the bar as to what message they want influencers to push, ensuring that claims are vetted for not being construed as factually inaccurate.

From a consumer’s point of view, complaints against products or services promoted via social media can go through the consumer protection department in whichever emirate they reside, who can then track down the social media influencer and hold them accountable.

Getting a Social Media Influencer Licence

You can apply either directly through an Emirates’ Department of Economic Development or one of the UAE’s many free zones. The process for individual influencers who are residents of the UAE is simple. You need to visit the NMC, fill out some forms and settle the payment of AED 15000. Upon completing the payment and submitting the required documents, you can receive the approval within 24 hours.

Alternatively, a more popular choice by influencers is to team up with a group of influencers to form a company that focuses on online marketing, the company as an entity must obtain only one approval from the NMC. However, there are particular rules about updating the NMC about people who join and leave the company, which must be followed.

Finally, another option is to sign up via an agency that already has an NMC license, and you are connected to them as an employee or subcontractor. However, this dramatically limits the scope of your earning potential, and you might be restricted in the type of clients you can engage with due to existing non-compete agreements with clients of the agency.

Unfortunately, many influencers don’t conduct due diligence in the packages that are on offer and are tied with licenses from jurisdictions that routinely change their rules. We work with free zones that are actively creating special packages for social media influencers. Please speak to one of our consultants who can give you advice on the best jurisdiction and latest competitive packages.

Gilbert Sakr

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