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Should Affiliate Marketers Be Liable For What They Promote?

affiliate marketers hanging togetherShady Internet marketers continue to push the envelope when promoting continuity programs. A typical example from last week involves a marketer who wraps himself in his religion* as a way to dupe prospective clients and affiliates into thinking that he’s an honest guy.

This particular marketer is smart but don’t confuse intelligence with ethics. He’s the moral equivalent of a spammer.

What did he do?

He sold a product online for below market value (warning bells should be going off – what’s the catch?). The sales letter didn’t mention a continuity program.

When you clicked the order button, it took you to a page to fill out your payment information.

What most people wouldn’t notice was that below the order information there was a small box that indicated a “bonus” free trial of the marketer’s monthly continuity program.

Unless you unchecked a small prechecked box below your payment information, you would automatically be enrolled in the program and would have your credit card hit monthly after the trial period.

The program itself wasn’t even described so that you could make an informed decision as to whether it was worthwhile.

If you’ve got a good enough continuity program, you don’t need to hide it. In addition to the legal issues, that’s a sound piece of business advice. A continuity program should be able to stand on its own merits as something that your clients would want to buy. If it has to be hidden, chances are it is cr@p.

What about affiliate marketers who promote for marketers who engage in deceptive business practices?

Most of them don’t even know the continuity programs exist. They’re promoting for the affiliate commission check and/or based upon a misplaced trust in the Internet marketer who created the hidden program. What about performing due diligence?

In fact, none of the affiliate emails that I receive piking this stuff ever discloses that the purchase of product X is tied to hidden continuity program Y and that there will be monthly billing instead of a one-time purchase.

I’ll probably get some flack for revealing that the hidden continuity emperor has no clothes or daring to suggest that affiliates check out products and services before promoting them. But that’s okay. Better you hear about it from me than from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) knocking at your door.

What do you think?

Have continuity programs gone too far?

Should affiliates be held liable for pitching programs that violate the law? And what about the marketers who create these deceptive programs?

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* Internet consumer protection tip — If a marketer is trying to sell you something online and uses either his religion or family as a way to persuade you that he’s honest, grab your wallet and run the other way.

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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