Mjomba Regulated: New MOCIIP Decision Requires Social Media Influencers to be Licensed

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion (MOCIIP) published in this week’s issue of the Official Gazette a regulation governing the activities of marketing and promotion on internet websites and social media that requires social media influencers to register with the government and requires all companies using their service to verify the existence of a licence before dealing with them. The new regulation enters into force in 90 days and imposes fines of up to 1,000 Rial Omani.

Like many countries around the world, Oman has finally decided to formally regulate the activities of social media influencers promoting goods and services on the likes of Instagram and Snapchat. Even though the scale of the social media influencer market is significantly smaller in comparison to our neighbours, some Omani influencers do have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and Snapchat to which they promote—without any regulation—products and services. These products might include diet products, beauty products, and travel packages, which are not necessarily licensed or approved by any health or safety authority, and without any guarantees as to the authenticity or fitness for purpose of the advertised goods. It is also safe to assume that the majority of social media influencers in Oman do not pay any taxes and do not operate through any formal legal structure.

MOCIIP Decision 619/2022 brings an end to the era of the unregulated influencer market by issuing the Regulation Governing the Activity of Marketing and Promotion on Internet Websites and Social Media, which requires that social media influencers operate through a form of a commercial company and that they obtain a licence from MOCIIP before commencing their operations. The licence application must identify each specific social media platform on which the influencer intends to operate.

The licensing requirement only applies to social media influencers operating in the for-profit marketing and promotion field, and does not apply to those who use their online fame to promote charities or volunteering activities. Merchants selling their own products and services are also not required to apply for a licence, but are expected to comply with other conditions stipulated in the regulation.

MOCIIP’s decision appears to be motivated by factors beyond traditional commercial issues and provides in article 9 a long list of requirements and prohibitions that influencers must comply with, such as a requirement for the influencer to display their licence number and a requirement to respect the national Omani identity and cultural heritage of Oman. This last example illustrates how vague these prohibitions can be, which is likely to have an impact on the behaviour of Omani influencers engaged in marketing and promotional activities.

Article 8 of the regulation also requires that those wishing to utilise the services of social media influencers must verify that influencers possess the required licence.

Influencers in violation of the provisions of the regulation may be warned, fined up to 1,000 Rial Omani, have their licence suspended for up to a year, or have their licence permanently revoked. The regulation allows the government to start an investigation process against offenders of the regulation without the need for a complaint to be filed by any third party.

Hiring social media influencers is now a common practice by big and small companies in Oman, including major telecoms, banks, and real estate developers in the country, and this regulation is likely to have an impact on their advertising strategies moving forward.

The regulation enters into force in 90 days, and existing social media influencers have up to 6 months to comply with the regulation.

You can read the text of this regulation in full on this link.