The Affiliate Marketing Industry is doing almost nothing to fix issues in compliance with rules and laws about privacy and unsolicited communications, according to the Unsolicited Communcations Enforcement Network.
An investigation by UCENet, involving nine agencies from five countries, reviewed 902 websites and examined 6,536 consumer complaints related to affiliate marketing in their respective databases.
The issues found in the sweep included an apparent lack of self-regulation, lack of consent, misleading advertising and issues around affiliate marketing platforms.
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.
The investigation also notes that 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.
Of the 902 international websites visited during the sweep, 221 were flagged for further action.
The Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network (UCENET) – initially known as the London Action Plan (LAP) – is a framework for international cooperation in enforcing spam-related legislation and addressing similar cyber-challenges such as online fraud, malware, phishing, and dissemination of viruses.
UCENET activities include, among others, sharing information to identify risks and opportunities for enforcement action and/or prevention, sharing intelligence and investigative techniques and enforcement strategies, and facilitation of coordination involving multiple authorities.
Members of the initiative have annual meetings and regular teleconferences to exchange information and discuss issues related to regulation and enforcement in the areas of spam and other related online threats.