TUI Travel-owned LateRooms has admitted a major communication error which exposed hundreds of affiliate addresses, including those belonging to a London escort agency.
The problem came to light when a member of the accommodation website's affiliates team sent an email to registered affiliates of the company with an offer to upgrade their programme.
But instead of keeping the addresses of those on the list invisible (BCC), a varied and enlightening array of affiliates were displayed in the CC field of the email, including that of a website known as SaucyLondon ("... a London based escort agency that aims to introduce some of the naughtiest ladies to the very naughty gentleman of London").
The error is already causing problems for LateRooms on a number of levels.
First of all the inclusion of a site that presumably does not reflect the brand values of a leading European travel company has caused embarrassment within the organisation.
Many of the other affiliates are concerned that their addresses have been revealed to others on the programme.
But perhaps most crucially the existence and contact details of hundreds of affiliate sites is now circulating the UK digital community and, in the words of the agency figure who provided evidence of the email to Tnooz but wished to remain anonymous, "certain fast-moving agencies are already using this data to help their own clients".
The story comes at a time when the affiliate marketing sector has made concerted and successful attempts over recent years to clean up the image of the discipline.
LateRooms admitted the existence of the email this morning and, to its credit, fully disclosed the reasons behind the problem.
An official says the sending of the email and openly including details of the affiliates was "human error that shouldn't have happened".
Communication with affiliates (in this case, "non-active" but still registered on the system) is normally carried out via a well known CRM system, CreatorMail, although in this instance an individual used their own LateRooms account to contact the database with an upgrade offer, thus leading to usual quality control processes not kicking in.
The matter is being "fully investigated" within the company, the official says.
However, SaucyLondon should not have been a registered LateRooms or TUI affiliate, whether the account is active or not, the official continues.
"TUI and LateRooms brand is extremely important to us and we are extremely careful about who we employ as affiliates."
A number of requests from such organisations are being made and Laterooms should have screened them closely, the official admits.
The agency source has an additional theory:
"I can only imagine the escort agency runs a number of sites – some legitimate – and managed to register to LateRooms with that URL. They never bothered to use a less-salacious email address and LateRooms never checked. That’s the Pro-LateRooms story.
"My mind, however, suggests that the escort agency perhaps likes to book hotel rooms for some reason... And fancies getting paid commission for doing those bookings."