International affiliate investigation identifies privacy failings

An international investigation has discovered affiliate failures in relation to the rules on privacy and unsolicited communications. Nine agencies from five different countries (including the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Malta) joined to investigate 902 websites and examine 6536 consumer complaints centered around affiliate marketing.

The global intelligence-gathering operation was conducted by the Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network (UCENet), a corporation that deals with spam-related problems on an international level. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) were tasked with leading the UCENet Sweep 2017.

The investigation concluded that 221 websites should be subjected to further investigation. Among all other things, the investigators noticed several recurring problems, including lack of self-regulation, lack of consent and misleading advertising.

In addition to that, the agencies found that some new affiliate marketing platforms intentionally hid their physical location, obstructing regulators to take enforcement action against the erring websites. Such websites were blasted for failing to comply with the law. However, a number of websites were found to be in compliance with laws on unsolicited marketing.

A number of online casino operators decided to cut down their UK affiliate activity under increased regulatory oversight pressure. Online gambling operator 888 Holdings and its rival Paddy Power Betfair announced that the two companies are trying to cut ties with their UK-facing affiliate marketing programs.

Last year, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) slapped a record-high fine of £7.8 million (US$10 million) on 888 for failing to protect problem gamblers, who had chosen to self-exclude from the online gambling platform. This was a lesson for a number of online casino operators illegally targeting customers.

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