Q: I am an affiliate of about 50 different programs. I belong to the large affiliate networks like Commission Junction, LinkShare, Kolimbo.com and Amazon.com. My question to you is I have joined some independent merchants that run their own affiliate program. I have made some sales, then they discontinue their program and NEVER pay me. Sometimes it is not a lot of money. Do I have any legal rights? Do they have any accountability?
A: Let me start by saying that I am not a lawyer, and I would suggest you consult with a lawyer to get the best guidance in legal issues.
That said, you surely have legal rights as an affiliate. Whenever you join an affiliate program, you should be acknowledging that you agree to the terms of their affiliate program (don’t promote an affiliate program that doesn’t have terms that explain how much you will be paid, when you will be paid, etc).
Since you problem is with independent affiliate programs, their agreements are going to vary, so each situation will be somewhat unique.
But each agreement should definitely have the terms under which they pay you as an affiliate. So your first move should be to review those terms to see exactly what you agreed to when joining the affiliate program.
If you are typical of most affiliates, you don’t read those affiliate agreements – consider the loss of money you’ve experienced as a wake-up call and start reading your agreements.
Anyhow, there are two types of affiliate program closures – one is where the company just decides to kill the affiliate program for whatever reason. The other is when the company has gone out of business.
If it’s the former, you may still be able to get your money, but there is a whole lot of red tape when a company goes out of business, and it will be trickier to try and claim those funds due to you.
As far as the amount due to you – unless you are owed many hundreds, even thousands of dollars, it’s probably not worth hiring a lawyer, because they are going to charge you a fairly hefty rate to look into your issue and pursue it for you.
The lesson to be learned here, aside from always reading the affiliate agreement, is that you should be very picky about the affiliate programs you promote.
Don’t just join them and put up links blindly. Do some research on the companies by searching their names in the search engines; ask about them in affiliate marketing forums.
Also important – be sure you have a contact at the company. If you are welcomed into the affiliate program with a letter signed “Affiliate Manager” with no real name or phone number, think twice about promoting them.
If it’s hard to figure out who to contact when they don’t owe you anything, think about how difficult it will be to track somebody down when money is due.