Affiliate Opinion: Ian Sims addresses UKGC ad guidelines

Rightlander owner Ian Sims offers opinions and advice on the latest Gambling Commission (UKGC) consumer protection policies, which come into place today.

The UKGC has made it pretty obvious over the last year that it expects gambling companies to behave more responsibly. While the advice given has not necessarily been that specific in some areas, most notably affiliate compliance, the expected goal has been made pretty clear: behave ethically and don’t mislead prospective punters!

Achieving this is generally done with a commonsense approach and by putting yourself in the place of the punter: what would you expect when signing up to gamble and perhaps more pertinently, what would you not expect? It’s not rocket science and in fact it can also really help the brand to manage expectations and improve their business if done right and properly.

The trouble is, while operators are able to take this approach and ensure that loopholes are tightened, they rely on 3rd parties for a lot of their marketing and that is not ideal, especially now that they can be held responsible for any issues.

But it is not solely the operator who will suffer if an affiliate screws up. The ICO can and undoubtedly will chase affiliates down and take action if they breach ASA rules. What’s more, it only takes one bad apple to have an affiliate program closed down or, worse still, see a licence revoked. Then all the affiliates marketing those brands will suffer.

The way I interpret the 31st October as a key date is the UKGC effectively telling operators that they have had plenty of warnings and they will be expected to have procedures and mechanisms in place from the 1st November to show that they are actively policing all their marketing channels, especially affiliates.

The message should also be heeded by affiliates. While many see the operator as bearing the brunt of the responsibility, they should not assume they are immune from punitive measures.

The UKGC perform regular audits of operators and affiliate compliance has already become part of that process. We have had reports from clients who have been asked to demonstrate the measures they are taking to monitor affiliates and we’ve also picked up new clients who went through that process and realised that they need to monitor affiliates and implement procedures. Until now, they appear to have been given time to do so but I think that grace period is over.

The most common request we receive at Rightlander from operators and affiliates is to identify pages that still promote brands using outdated offers. Second to that is to produce reports of current offers being promoted without significant terms and conditions obviously visible.

Many affiliates seem to have got the message about using misleading text like “risk free” and “free money”, although there are still a large number of sites out there that have yet to be cleaned up but it’s quite apparent that operators are starting to cull affiliates who don’t engage in the compliance process.

I think that we’ll start to see more of that now the deadline is passed, which is why affiliates can’t ignore this date either.

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