Avoiding Government Intrusion in Affiliate Marketing – By Phil Kaufman

by Colleen on July 31, 2012

Certainly, there are unscrupulous affiliates in the affiliate marketing world, who regularly engage in unethical and illegal activities that directly impact on the rest of us.

However, it is my opinion that Olga Eskina’s article “Avoiding Federal Government Legislation in Affiliate Marketing”, in issue 18 of FeedFront, proposing an industry-wide police agency, ruled by a “team of industry veterans” (no mention as to how they would be recruited or paid) with the power to prohibit individuals from working as affiliate marketers, is fatally flawed.

Eskina makes the unwarranted assumption that networks would welcome such an agency and prohibit affiliates who failed their standards. She obviously has ignored the reality of major networks welcoming the profits generated by offenders.

Without universal network participation, such a licensing organization would be a toothless, illusory band-aid applied to very real problems.

She calls for serious sanctions for offenders who engage in “illegal” activities. Who decides what is illegal? How many parasites have been prosecuted for theft?

Generally, district attorneys and attorneys general across the country do not consider the re-direction of affiliate commissions as illegal.

Ms. Eskina, feels that regulating affiliates is the universal panacea to industry problems, and ignores the equally egregious activities of unscrupulous merchants.

Affiliates must deal with merchants who reverse commissions for manufactured or unstated grounds, merchants who fail to inform us that their tracking has been non-existent for days or weeks, and merchants who bury vital new Terms of Service in pages of single-spaced boilerplate.

Would Walmart or Staples or Sears ever agree to be bound by a new set of rules and to jump through such licensing hoops? Would a major network ever give up that revenue stream to abide by the decisions of such an agency?

Ms. Eskina mentions that such an organization should be similar to a state bar organization. But it is state bars that routinely dole out discipline with reckless abandon to over-worked, underpaid sole practitioners who have disgruntled clients who are convicted of crimes or who lose questionable injury claims, and who then blame their lawyer.

Meanwhile, they NEVER issue discipline against insurance industry lawyers or government prosecutors, who habitually engage in far more onerous, unethical and illegal activities.

This mirrors the system we have now – affiliates are the bad guys while merchants write their own rules as they go along.

One must remember that affiliate marketing is an advertising business. It is not a public service industry that cries out for strict standards to protect the public. Imposing licensing standards that have the effect of restricting entry into the field may be illegal and may well invite government intrusion rather than deflect further government involvement.

Were they so motivated, networks themselves have the power to solve all of these problems.

Phil Kaufman has been an affiliate marketer since 2001 and blogs on politics and sports.

Download the entire FeedFront issue 19 here – http://issuu.com/affiliatesummit/docs/feedfront-19

FeedFront issue 19 articles can be found here as well: http://feedfront.com/archives/article00date/2012/7

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