(Bloomberg) — The government of Giorgia Meloni backed tighter rules including fines on business linked to charities in the wake of an investigation focusing on Italy’s top influencer for alleged fraud.
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Entrepreneur Chiara Ferragni, who has 29.3 million followers on Instagram, is the target of a probe triggered by her promotion of products including a pandoro Christmas cake. The endorsement by Ferragni, 36, was tied to fund raising for charitable causes.
The cabinet approved a decree Thursday, nicknamed by the Italian media as the “Ferragni law,” which orders companies to specify on packaging how much of the sales will go to charity and when the payments will be made, Industry Minister Adolfo Urso told reporters.
Firms and individuals failing to comply with the new rules face fines by the competition authority of as much as €50,000 ($54,527). The money from the fines will go to charitable causes, Urso said. News of the sanctions will be published on the companies’ websites and communicated to the media.
The judicial probe centers on Ferragni’s endorsement of the pandoro cake, made by the Balocco firm and allegedly to help fund a hospital. The investigation also targets sales of Easter eggs for the Dolci Preziosi company and of a Trudi doll.
Ferragni welcomed the decree. “What happened to me has made me realize how crucial it is to discipline, with clear rules, charitable activities linked to business activities,” Ferragni said in a statement.
Commenting on the judicial probe, Ferragni’s lawyers wrote in a statement that they are “totally certain of Chiara’s absolute innocence and that innocence will emerge from the investigations,” newswire Ansa reported last weekend.
The probe came after the competition authority fined Ferragni’s companies more than €1 million last month for unfair commercial practices over the sale of the pandoro cakes linked to a children’s hospital in Turin. The authority found that the influencer misled consumers as the manufacturer had already made a fixed donation to the hospital before the launch of the initiative.
The cakes affair showed that there was “a hole” in terms of transparency in the regulation of commercial activities that also have a charitable purpose, Meloni told Retequattro television at the weekend.
–With assistance from Alessandra Migliaccio.
(Updates with Ferragni’s remarks in sixth paragraph)
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