Affiliate marketing industry needs to clean up its act

The Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) has published the results of a global intelligence-gathering operation by the Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network (UCENet) that:

  • involved nine agencies from five countries,
  • visited 902 websites and
  • examined 6,536 consumer complaints related to affiliate marketing in their respective databases.

In light of major problems with affiliate marketing identified in the UK gambling sector within the last six months, it is not surprising that the operation found that the affiliate marketing industry has significant compliance issues to overcome, including the following (according to the ICO’s news item on this topic entitled “Affiliate marketing industry needs to clean up its act in terms of privacy law compliance” that can be downloaded below):

  • Apparent lack of self-regulation: “A majority of participants noted that most of the publicly available terms of services between the affiliates, the merchants, and the affiliate platforms lacked appropriate unsolicited communication guidelines establishing what is permissible”.
  • Lack of consent: “Some participating countries that have an opt-in unsolicited communication regime noted that affiliates generally do not possess the consent of the consumer to send electronic communications”.
  • Misleading advertising: “Many participants noted the prevalence of misleading advertising in the affiliate marketing ecosystem. Within minutes of beginning their research, sweepers were exposed to some form of misleading advertising”.
  • Affiliate marketing platforms: “Some affiliate marketing platforms, which operate as a third party agent handling interactions and payments between merchants and affiliates, have a short lifespan (often less than a year) and conceal their physical location, potentially making enforcement a challenge”.

Operators and affiliates wishing to learn more about this subject should read David Clifton’s August 2017 “Licensing Expert” article for SBC News entitled “Don’t gamble on your affiliates”.