Influencer Simone Anderson has hit back at complaints questioning donations she claims to have made to charity, saying she refutes the allegations.
Anderson was responding to an Advertising Standards Authority [ASA] decision released today regarding misleading posts she made on Instagram.
The ASA complaints board upheld four complaints about two of Anderson's posts in the first decision of its kind.
It follows revelations by the Herald on Sunday and Weekend Herald that Anderson has been accused by some followers of not providing proof of claims she donated money to charity that she earned from gifted clothing sold on Facebook.
The ASA is set to investigate that complaint while the Commerce Commission is also assessing a similar complaint.
Anderson, who has 313,000 Instagram followers after she shot to fame when she lost 92kg in 2015, has never publicly addressed the complaints until now.
Through Outspoken by Odd - the talent agency that represents her - Anderson supplied a statement to the Herald following publication of the ASA decision.
"Today I received notification from the Advertising Standards Authority New Zealand that complaints regarding transparency about recent posts of mine has been upheld," the 29-year-old Aucklander said.
"The complaints have been upheld as a precedent-setting example of the exact hashtags that the ASA would like to see used to denote where goods or services have been accepted in return for social media coverage by content creators.
"There has been uncertainty in the past around the usage of the hashtags #CoLab and #Gifted."
Anderson said today's decision indicated the hashtags were no longer robust enough identifiers.
The ASA complaints board has requested the ASA consider publishing further guidelines on how to sufficiently identify the commercial relationships between influencers as advertisers and third parties such as retailers and hotel chains.
There are currently no set legal guidelines around the use of the hashtags, only best-practice suggestions.
"The ASA requested that I re-identify the posts, which I have done immediately, and recommended the use of #ad or #sponsored in all transaction-based content in future."
Anderson also acknowledged the complaint with the Commerce Commission questioning charitable donations she claims to have made on gifts she sold on her private Facebook group, Simone's Second Hand Wardrobe.
The Herald sought and was released a copy of the complaint under the Official Information Act.
The concerns were that Anderson was "selling gifted clothing and accessories to NZ public via Facebook and claiming to donate money received to charity. Evidence of donations not transparent. Concerns around tax evasion, false advertising, misleading the public, etc".
Anderson pointed out the Commission was not yet investigating the complaint lodged on May 30.
"However I am complying fully with the Commission, having supplied all evidence requested by them to refute this complaint.
"I entirely respect and support the process of investigation by the Commerce Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority, and will continue to co-operate with them unreservedly."
A former member of Anderson's secondhand clothing group, Erin - who did not want her surname used for fear of a social media backlash - claimed that when she asked Anderson for proof of the donations to charity her post was deleted and she was ousted from the group.
"I have purchased several items from Simone, and paid for them believing she was donating to charity," Erin said.
"When I asked her whether she intended to share any proof of the donations in a polite, not nasty manner, I was promptly blocked from her secondhand wardrobe page and my post deleted."
Anderson has not responded to the allegations in detail.
Instead she said she wanted to thank everyone who has continued to support her.
"I have not wanted either of these situations to play out in the court of public opinion, which is why I have avoided commenting until now.
"On a personal note; during my time working within the social media landscape, I have tried my utmost to act in good faith and with the best of intentions.
"I am passionate about continuing and supporting the positive contribution made by content creators to the incredible communities of Instagram and Facebook."