Affiliate marketing has become the subject of interest of the government, resulting in laws that govern it.
Affiliate marketers used to push their products hard with outrageous claims, defrauding customers. To combat this, the Federal Trade Commission put laws in place in 2009 to keep consumers informed about when an affiliate marketer would profit from a sale.
Keeping Claims Legitimate
Advertising laws have long been clear about what could and could not be claimed about a product. However, the definition of advertising became unclear when affiliate marketing became common. In 2009, the FTC clarified the rules about affiliate marketing, disclosure and how to be compliant with advertising laws.
As an affiliate, any claims you make can be considered an advertisement and must be truthful. When advertising health products, there are a number of FTC regulations that apply. These include not claiming cures for conditions and illnesses when none exist. When promoting dietary supplements, vitamins, etc., the promotional copy should carry a disclaimer that the statement hasn’t been approved by the FDA if you make any health claims. The review or other posting should be free from unrealistic claims such as a supplement causing weight loss of 10 pounds a week. The copy should also be free from false monetary guarantees, such as promising something for free and directing readers to a link that charges for the products.
If you use testimonials for a product, they must be legitimate and written by people who have used the product. Fake reviews are gaining the attention of the FTC, and people are being fined for using them. If a company asks you to pose fake reviews as a part of your marketing campaign, decline the offer. The practice can lead to legal trouble for both yourself and the company.
Disclosing Your Status as an Affiliate
Placing an affiliate link in a product review can defraud customers if the review isn’t honest and doesn’t let readers know that the review writer would profit from the sale if the readers were to buy it. This is the issue the legislation clarified with its 2009 guidelines. Any time an affiliate link is used, it should be clear to the consumer that there is a relationship between the person who placed the link and the company selling the product. How you do this, however, has not been regulated.
Some bloggers who use affiliate links on their blogs have created a disclosure page that reveals their status as an affiliate and briefly describes how the sales can benefit them. Then, when affiliate links are used in a post, the reader is directed to the disclosure page. Other bloggers and website owners have simply added a short notification below their affiliate link and product information.
The site that you place the links on should also be transparent. The FTC has cracked down on fake-news sites that use fake news stories to promote products. Whatever site you create for your links, don’t pretend that it’s anything that it isn’t, or you risk FTC fines.
Spamming Affiliate Links
Other legislation that you should be aware of is the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. This act regulates how commercial emails can be sent. If you send your affiliate links out to members of an email list, each list member must have willingly put themselves on the list, and not under false pretenses. The list members must be given a way to unsubscribe from the messages. Unsubscribe requests must be handles within 10 days of the request.
The act also applies to text messages if the message includes a domain name. Commercial text messages can’t be sent to a phone number that has been placed on the Do Not Call registry.