Influencer Fined $1 Million for Misleading Her Audience

By: Lauren | Published: Dec 29, 2023

Many online influencers use charitable acts as a way to sell their products and engage with followers, while giving back to a community in need.

However, one influencer promised her followers that their purchases would mean large donations to a children’s hospital, but instead, kept the money for herself. And now, she’s paying for it.

Who is Chiara Ferragni?

Chiara Ferragni is an Italian influencer with almost 30 million followers on Instagram. She posts a wide variety of photos, including endorsements, her children, her husband, and herself in lingerie.

Chiara Ferragni’s Instagram homepage

Source: @chiaraferragni/Instagram

After becoming wildly successful on social media, Chiara used her fame to start a fashion brand and marketing agency, and she even had her own reality TV show.

The Ferragnez

Although it was nowhere near as popular as the Kardashians, Chiara’s show “The Ferragnez” had a solid following on Amazon’s Prime Video platform.

Chiara Ferragni and husband on promotional poster for their reality show “The Ferragnez”

Source: Amazon Prime Video

With success in almost every industry, Chiara has made quite a pretty penny. In fact, it is estimated that she is personally worth a whopping 19 million euros, or $20.1 million.

To Some, Chiara is a Fantastic Business Owner

Of course, some people believe that influencers are not business people, but most would disagree.

Chiara Ferragni on the front of Italian newspaper L’Economia

Source: @chiaraferragni/Instagram

Chiara is seen by many in Italy and around the world as a wildly successful business owner, as she managed to turn her social media page into several multimillion dollar operations.

The Investigation

Chiara’s career was certainly going well until June 2023, when the Italian Competition Authority initiated an investigation against her.

Chiara Ferragni’s Instagram post from November 24, 2022

Source: @chiaraferragni/Instagram

Specifically, they were looking at a post from the Insta-star from Nov. 24, 2022, in which Chiara encouraged her followers to buy a specialty cake, the money from which would be donated to charity.

The Charitable Cake

Chiara had worked with famous Italian pastry company, Balocco, to create a unique pink box for their classic cake with her name and company logo.

Chiara Ferragni holding the specialty “Chiara Ferragni and Balocco” Christmas cake

Source: @chiaraferragni/Instagram

She was selling the specialty “Chiara Ferragni and Balocco” cake for $10, even though in its standard holiday box, the same Balocco cake would only cost $4.10.


The Charity in Need

In her post last November, Chiara explained that she and Balocco had partnered to make this product to collect money to give to a local charity.

Chiara Ferragni holding the specialty “Chiara Ferragni and Balocco” Christmas cake

Source: @chiaraferragni/Instagram

Chiara explained that the money would be going to the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin, Italy. But that’s not exactly what happened.


What the Police Found During Their Investigation

After several months of investigation into Chiara and Balocco, the Italian Competition Authority finally released their findings on Dec. 15, 2023.

Chiara Ferragni holding the specialty “Chiara Ferragni and Balocco” Christmas cakes

Source: @chiaraferragni/Instagram

In the news release, they explained that two of Chiara’s businesses received over $1.1 million from cake sales, and there is no evidence that the influencer donated anything to the hospital.


What Was Balocco’s Role in the Scandal?

The authorities also noted that while Balocco did technically donate to the Regina Margherita Hospital, it was for a measly $55,000.

Stage set up to promote Balocco pastries

Source: Italian Food

Of course, with these findings, the Italian authorities ruled that both Chiara Ferragni and Balocco would have to pay a hefty fine for their crime. Balocco received a $460,000 ticket, which Chiara had to pay a whopping $1.1 million.


The Lying Is Simply Unacceptable

The Italian Competition Authority explained that Chiara’s post was misleading, and violates the country’s consumer code of conduct.

Exterior of the AGCM offices with a billboard celebrating 30 years

Source: AGCM

They said in their statement, “This practice significantly limited consumers’ freedom of choice by leveraging their sensitivity to charitable initiatives.”


Italy’s Prime Minister Even Commented on the Scandal

In a speech this week, the Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, even alluded to the wrongdoing.

Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni speaking to a crowd

Source: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

She said content creators even made and promoted “expensive panettone making believe that they are for charity, when the price only pays for millionaire’s fees.”


What Does Chiara Have to Say About All This?

As a public figure, Chiara clearly had to respond to the situation. And just three days after the Authority’s ruling, she posted on Instagram asking forgiveness from her 30 million followers.

Chiara Ferragni’s apology post on Instagram from December 18, 2023

Source: @chiaraferragni/Instagram

Chiara apologized, but said that she wasn’t aware of the information on the original post. From now on, the star says, she will not partner her businesses with charities, and she has pledged to give $1 million to the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin, Italy.