Global Affiliate Marketing Laws

As the affiliate marketing industry turns into a global playground, it’s important for players to understand compliance laws worldwide. Although the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 has been enforced in the US for more than a decade, many international brands are still unknowingly (and, sometimes, knowingly) breaking the law. It’s important to realize that while many countries enforce similar rules, they all differ to some extent.

Below are just a few different examples of legislation that could affect the way you market to an international audience.


Spam Act of 2003 provided guidelines for sending “commercial electronic messages” including, but not limited to, email and automated phone recordings. Similar to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, the senders must clearly identify themselves and provide an option for the consumer to unsubscribe from future messages. The Australian Communications and Media Authority, the agency that enforces this legislation, has been particularly strict about email harvesting practices, especially since a 2006 ruling that decided any email data retrieved prior to 2003 was not exempt from the new law.


Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is perhaps the most restrictive spam law to be drafted simply because it covers a broad scope of electronic communication and any violation could result in severe penalties. In fact, some companies have decided not to market to Canadian residents altogether to forego the risk. CASL affects both advertising companies and individual citizens who use electronic means to communicate, with fines ranging from $10,000 to $1 Million per punishable event.

The law is currently in a three-year transitional phase, not in full effect until 2017. However, anyone currently participating or planning to advertise in Canada should be sure to thoroughly research CASL as well as the other Canadian legislation including the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which must be abided by to avoid legal repercussions.

European Union

The Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, more commonly known as the E-Privacy Directive, covers many issues including data retention, unsolicited emails, and the use of cookies to track and influence consumer activity. It also obligates companies providing electronic communication services to provide security and confidentiality, meaning consumers must be notified of any risk (such as malware or other viruses) as well as not use the data they retrieve for censoring activities like phone tapping and email surveillance.

United Kingdom

Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 prohibits direct marketing to a consumer without prior consent. The law is a blanket ordinance that includes communication via email, SMS messaging, and automated recorded messages. Like other countries, UK compliance laws tend to put the compliance responsibility on third-party marketing companies rather than the brands they represent.

Whether or not you market to a global demographic, it’s your responsibility to abide by the laws in place in each region you target. Many affiliate marketing companies have failed due to legislative violations that resulted in fines sometimes reaching into the millions of dollars. To avoid a similar fate, be sure to educate yourself and hire a legal advisory team if possible.

Comments are closed.