Affiliates could feel the pinch

Retroactive changes to affiliate marketers' contracts creating major waves.

Affiliate marketers - individual companies and webmasters who use their Internet websites to promote online gambling venues and direct would-be players to them - are becoming increasingly perturbed at the antics of affiliate programs - companies set up by casinos and poker rooms to provide marketing aids and administer payment to affiliate marketers.

The current furore is over the actions of certain affiliate programs that have unilaterally changed their contractual obligations to affiliates who have signed up with them, in many cases resulting in reduced earnings, affiliates claim.

So worrying have these unilateral changes to T&Cs become, that specialised websites like Affiliate Guard Dog.com have set up monitoring regimes to keep an eye on major programs and flag any attempts to sneak in T&C changes that impact affiliate contracts.

One online gambling information portal with a broadly based membership that includes affiliate marketers and affiliate program managers in addition to online players has been among several where this deeply divisive issue has been debated.

The consensus among most players and affiliate marketers on the Casinomeister.com website appears to be that a program's contract with an affiliate marketer should offer the same two-way benefits as any contract....and that unilateral and unannounced changes to obligations agreed under said contract should not be tolerated.

The general opinion appears to be that affiliate programs that want to deviate from the original agreement with their affiliate marketers should only do so with their acquiesence, and the unannounced and retroactive imposition of new conditions that are possibly injurious to affiliates who are already contracted should be discouraged. Program managements need to seriously consider this aspect when dealing with affiliates with whom they already have a contractual agreement.

Generally draconian 'catch-all' clauses in agreements that permit program management to do more or less what it likes are also undesirable and conflict with the partnership ideals on which affiliate agreements should be based.

Companies that intend to introduce new terms and conditions to their contracts with affiliates can of course apply the new requirements to new affiliates signing up, but should not presume to impose same on existing affiliates. The correct course in the case of already contracted affiliates is to negotiate an arrangement acceptable to both program and affiliate, or use the contract's cancellation clauses to end the relationship.

Much can be gained by both affiliates and programs in addressing the issue in a disciplined and collaborative discussion rather than taking intractable and confrontational positions. Unfortunately it may be inevitable that there will be hotheads on both sides who will favour the combative approach without fully considering the other side's arguments.

Hopefully professionalism and sound business sense will apply all round as the situation develops, resulting in a fairer and more transparent system.

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