Please Note: The information contained in this note only represents a summary of the subject matter covered, and is not intended to be comprehensive or to be a substitute for detailed advice.

As an affiliate, it is important that you understand you are running a business, and you should treat your affiliate marketing activities as such. If you do not run your business lawfully, you can get into trouble. By taking steps to ensure that you are legal, decent, honest and truthful (reading this is a good start) you can put yourself in a better position to attempt to withstand any challenge that may come in relation to your website.

1. The content on your website

The most important thing to remember when writing copy for your website is that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONTENT ON YOUR WEBSITE.

There are a few particular areas where we receive complaints about the content on affiliates’ websites:

Comparison marketing

The number one complaint that we receive in relation to content on affiliates’ websites is from brand owners who say that their products have been compared with another (merchants) brand on an affiliates’ websites. Brand owners get annoyed when something negative (and potentially untruthful) is written about their brand, normally in order to ‘flip’ customers to another brand.

Comparison marketing can be legal in certain circumstances. However, if you write negative comments about a particular brand, if you cannot prove the accuracy of that statement then you certainly must not write it. For example, if you say that Adios slimming pills result in undesired bowel movements when you do not know if this is true then you should not write it.

There may also be circumstances when you find yourself the subject of challenge for saying something negative about a brand even though it may be factual correct. For this reason, care should be taken when comparing products on your website.

For further reading on comparison marketing please click here.

False and misleading information

All the content on your website must be factually accurate. In addition, any claims that you make must be capable of substantiation. Substantiation means that you must be able to support what you are saying with proof or evidence. This can be one of the hardest things for affiliates to achieve.

When writing your copy and considering whether any of the information on it is false or misleading, you should consider questions such as:

  • Is the content factual or opinion?
  • Am I making any claims?
  • Do I have the evidence to prove the claims I am making?
  • If the content is my personal opinions, do I make this clear?

Up to date content

Affiliates must ensure that their content is fresh and up to date. This is necessary to ensure that they do not find themselves inadvertently misleading readers of their website.

In addition, this may also prevent conversion leakage, because by ensuring website content mirrors the merchant’s site there will be a consistent message which is likely to result in higher conversions.

Affiliates should ensure that website copy is based on merchants’ sites: for example, use the same sales message. If the merchant’s key selling point is that they are the most clinically proven product in the market, don’t try and market the product around price and their offline PR endorsements.

Affiliates should keep a close eye on merchants’ sites and update content accordingly; leaving old offers, discount codes and expired prices on your site can leave affiliates open to legal challenge.

If a merchant runs a promotion, make sure content is updated to reflect the campaign. Once the promotion has finished, ensure that the information in relation to the promotion is removed.

Product trials

We often receive complaints from brand owners that say affiliates have made a claim that they have tried the product and had particular experiences when they do not believe that the affiliate has in fact tried the product.

Not only will this leave affiliates open to legal challenge, making claims about product based on personal experience when affiliates don’t actually have will be evident in website copy. It is human nature to write passionately about something you have experienced personally and this will be picked up by readers.

Affiliates should ask affiliate managers for samples. They will happily help affiliates and also make recommendations on how affiliates can get more value from samples: for example, creating a video review or daily blog, taking photos of the product in front of an affiliates website to instil confidence in the site.

Of course sometimes it is not practical to purchase every product in the market that affiliates have chosen, so for products that affiliates have not tried, they must stick to the facts (price, money back guarantee, claims, etc).

Affiliates must not make assumptions or conclusions which are not based on facts.

For further reading click here.

2. Earning disclosures

Affiliates are required by law to make it clear to visitors to their website that as an affiliate they may receive a commission if the user clicks through certain links and goes on to purchase a product on that website.

Affiliates in the MoreNiche network must include the MoreNiche earnings disclosure in a prominent position on their website.

Failure to add the MoreNiche earnings disclosure will result in an affiliate’s account being suspended.

3. Law applicable to particular products

As a network we operate from the UK and abide by UK law.

In general, affiliates will be subject to the laws in the country that they reside in. However, if an affiliate targets certain countries they may have to adhere to the law in that country as well as their own. For this reason, affiliates must ensure that they understand all applicable laws.

In the UK, the primary regulator of content on websites is the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). If an affiliate’s website is targeting a UK audience the affiliate may consider the ASA and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) as an initial source for information.

For further details, read our article on ASA & CAP Compliant affiliate marketing

4. Approved claims

All merchants in the MoreNiche network are required to supply a list of claims they have approved for affiliates to use on their websites. Although the merchants supply these claims it is still an affiliates responsibility to ensure that the content on their website abides by the affiliates local laws.

It is very important that affiliates understand what the merchant is allowing them to claim and that their copy reflects this. Not only will this help affiliates to resist any challenge made in relation to their content but it will also create a clear and transparent sales message between the affiliates copy and the merchant site, which will aid conversions.

The claims can be found by navigating to the product details in the affiliate portal and viewing the ‘advertising claims’ tab.

5. Owner’s consent

This may seem very obvious however a number of complaints that we receive are in relation to content that others say has been stolen from them. This may be content stolen from other affiliates, 3rd party sites or even from the merchants’ sites themselves.

Taking other peoples content is the fastest way to get into trouble, not only will MoreNiche close an affiliates account but affiliates could find themselves faced with a substantial loss of earnings bill. This not only applies to content but also graphics. Large image suppliers like Getty Images are known for their large team of people who hunt for stolen images and will commence legal action before you have time to say ‘I removed it’.

The best solution is to create graphics using royalty free images, a simple Google search and you can find plenty of these resources.

If affiliates stick to using resources made available by merchants and creating their own unique content and graphics, this will help ensure that they do not find themselves facing large fines due to copy infringements.

6. Ranking multiple products

Comparing and ranking multiple products’ has always been a solid way to demonstrate which product affiliates recommend visitors to their site purchase. This practice has been made even more popular by ‘Price Comparison’ websites.

Ranking brands 1st, 2nd, and 3rd is not always the best strategy and there is significant argument against the practice. However, for the purposes of this discussion, we will not delve into the arguments for and against the use. This discussion relates purely to the potential for challenge when adopting the practice.

Affiliates are allowed to rank brands that they have not personally reviewed. However, the comparison must be objective, and compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of the products. This may include for example price, guarantee length, clinical study quantity, customer support hours or references from “reputable sources”.

If however affiliates would like to add their own comments and make recommendations which go outside of the facts, then they need to be very careful.

If affiliates try the products themselves they have much more scope to add personal opinions and use information based on personal experience, however, care should still be taken.

The rules in relation to comparison marketing apply here also.

7. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (the “Regulations”) provide a general prohibition against unfair commercial practices, specific prohibitions against misleading and aggressive practices and a blacklist of 31 practices that will be deemed unfair in all circumstances.

Before joining the MoreNiche network, all merchants’ websites undergo a basic marketing review which is primarily focused on the Regulations. This review aims to highlight any potentially illegal marketing techniques.

Although the Regulations are mainly aimed at Traders who sell goods or services, they are in some circumstances applicable to affiliates. For this reason, affiliates must familiarise themselves with the Regulations.

A good overview of the Regulations can be found here.

We suggest affiliates pay close attention to the following:

Falsely claiming accreditation

At the most basic level affiliates fall foul of the Regulations if they use fake credentials: i.e. saying their name is something else, they are not who they say they are.

On a greater level affiliates fall foul if they create endorsements which do not exists (fake testimonials) or if they are not being true to the terms of the endorsement.

Running limited time or special offers which are not limited or special

We have all seen them, quick buy this item today and save $25 or free shipping today only. Or limited stock, only 5 left.

If the offer is always running or there is plenty of stock and this is used as a marketing tool then the affiliate will be committing an offence under the Regulations.

Over promise, under deliver or scare tactics

Falsely claiming that a product is able to cure illnesses, dysfunction or malformations is something that affiliates need to be careful of. Affiliates must stick to the claims merchants provide.

Affiliates must not scare their readers into thinking that a particular product is the only solution that will service their needs, when there are others that may.

Promoting free trials

Describing a product as ‘gratis’, ‘free’, ‘without charge’ or similar if the consumer has to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding to the commercial practice and collecting or paying for delivery of the item.

Even if the terms are clear affiliates should assume that customers are not going to read them, and anything that is linked to the word ‘free’ must be very carefully understood.

Most ‘free trials’ on the internet are not free at all and often require credit card details for re-billing. Affiliate must make sure they are comfortable with claims made in relation to price by merchants.

Affiliates must understanding and ensure that they comply with the Consumer Protection Regulations.

Notice

Remember, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONTENT ON YOUR WEBSITE.

If you have questions you can speak directly to our compliance officer here.

Do you believe that an affiliate is acting unethically? Complete the Unethical Advertising Claims form and MoreNiche will investigate.