Operators can be held responsible for bad behaviour of affiliates

News on 13 Sep 2017

It’s been a bad month publicity-wise for UK gambling following the 888 settlement with the UK Gambling Commission regarding its flawed self-exclusion system and a continuous stream of anti-gambling articles from The Guardian and other newspapers.

It was capped Wednesday by the announcement that the UK Advertising Standards Authority had found fault with the promotional activities of an unnamed affiliate marketer working for top operators 888 Holdings, Ladbrokes, Sky Betting & Gaming and Casumo.

The announcement was widely reported in industry and mainstream media.

The criticism stemmed from public complaints regarding ‘fake news style’ advertorial posing as bona fide editorial which was published earlier this year and claimed that an individual struggling with his wife’s cancer and medical debts of GBP 130,000 managed to come right by winning “over 30 times his annual salary in a single spin” at the above-named online gambling sites.

The material was widely used, along with following comments ostensibly from genuine readers lauding similar good luck stories and flanked by banner advertisements for gambling sites.

The operators argued that the material was generated by the affiliate and published without their knowledge or authority.

All four operators said they had fired the affiliate on grounds that he/she had violated their affiliate T&Cs, and they had further issued warnings through their affiliate management systems that this sort of promotional activity was not acceptable.

The ASA ruled that the material was unacceptable and not sufficiently well identified as “advertorial” content, but that the operators could not hide behind the “third party” argument.

Their products were the ones being promoted, and it was to their websites that readers were being directed; they were therefore beneficiaries of the inappropriate activity and should be held responsible for the unacceptable conduct of the affiliate.

The four operators were ordered to ensure that there was no repetition of the material and enjoined to make sure that future content of this nature was clearly identified as promotional and marketing communications, which should in any case be prepared and presented in a socially acceptable manner.

Our readers will recall that last week Sky Betting and Gaming discontinued its affiliate marketing program.

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