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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    What about Network Accountability?
    There is a thread regarding the Affiliate Bill of Rights here that focuses on merchants and AMs, but what about Network Accountability?

    We know what the merchants must do and we know what AMs must do and we even know what affiliates must do, but what about the networks?

    What about when a network's tracking goes down?
    What is the network's responsibility for policing adware usage? (same for toolbars...a popular if not heated topic recently here)
    Should networks allow their employees to be affiliates?
    Should they allow merchants to allow their employees to be affiliates?
    (How much regulation and rules should there be on this?)
    What about networks owning affiliates?
    What about the networks' responsibility in regard to changing their TOS, tracking mechanism, responding to email, etc. etc. (see the thread on Affiliate Bill of Rights)

    There are so many questions and areas of accountability, so let's see them here!

    We have a great list started in the aforementioned thread regarding merchants and AMs, but what accountability would you like to see for the networks? What code of ethics should they abide by?

    What would a review board be looking for in escalating issues to get them resolved?

    Networks are accountable to BOTH merchants and affiliates, so keep that in mind when posting. When tracking goes down, for instance, both sides are affected.

    Just wanted to get this rolling here...what do you think?
    Matt McWilliams
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  2. #2
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    Here is the list from the other thread so far.

    1. email updates when merchants change TOS
    2. sufficient notice before program changes take effect (ie change commission rate or cookie duration, notice of program closing)
    3. email notification when merchant goes offline/no funds
    4. advance notice and email notification of network change of terms
    5. guarantees against merchant retroactively removing affiliates
    6. guarantees against reversal of legitimate commissions
    7. guarantees that merchant will research and resolve tracking issues
    8. concise and complete TOS - suggested use of template or at least agreement to include all info in TOS
    9. Merchants and affiliates both agree to have valid email and respond within reasonable time (2-3? business days)
    10. if tracking is down affiliate should be compensated with their average commission
    11. pledge to agree to Bill of Rights
    12. also allow Pledge by OPMs/AMs stating they follow the Bill of Rights
    13. Merchant agrees to keep up with applicable state and federal laws pertaining to affiliates and provide affiliates with applicable documentation in a timely manner

    Keep in mind this only a list of suggestions, nothing official.
    Matt McWilliams
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  3. #3
    Network Rep & ABW Ambassador Carolyn - ShareASale's Avatar
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    man, good stuff Matt. When a merchant changes their TOS, how much advance notice should be given?

  4. #4
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    Little things - 5 business days
    Big things - 10 business days

    That is just my opinion of course though...is that enough for affiliates? merchants? Of course, what is little and what is big by definition?
    Matt McWilliams
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  5. #5
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattMcWilliams
    Little things - 5 business days
    Big things - 10 business days

    That is just my opinion of course though...is that enough for affiliates? merchants? Of course, what is little and what is big by definition?
    "Big things", which I think should include changes in commission rates, return days, and ppc restrictions, should be 30 days, as such changes can likely require the affiliate to do a major change-out to a new merchant.
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  6. #6
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AffiliateHound
    "Big things", which I think should include changes in commission rates, return days, and ppc restrictions, should be 30 days, as such changes can likely require the affiliate to do a major change-out to a new merchant.
    Those would be merchant changes. I could see the network requiring the merchant to do these things. Could the network be required to notify the affiliate anytime the TOS for a merchant are changed? OR could they require the merchant to notify them? (i.e. a prewritten email that MUST be sent in order to change them, that can be edited by the merchant before it is sent)

    The question I (and perhaps Carolyn, but I am not sure) had was what if the network changes their TOS..what would be the timeline for letting everyone know?
    Matt McWilliams
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  7. #7
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    OK. I saw the basic question to include what a network should require of their merchants, not just what the network itself does.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
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  8. #8
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AffiliateHound
    OK. I saw the basic question to include what a network should require of their merchants, not just what the network itself does.
    Definitely! While I did not think of that, I am glad you did
    Matt McWilliams
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  9. #9
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Great post Matt and will go through these to offer my suggestions. We can also extend this to in-house programs so they have a list of recommended points to work from.

    6. guarantees against reversal of legitimate commissions
    On the merchant side we can suffer from a fraudulent affiliate or trademark poacher when their links stay active for 7 days. Need an emergency button for certain level accounts so that it doesn't go through an auto responder.

  10. #10
    Advocate mellie's Avatar
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    What about when a network's tracking goes down?
    Who do you think should be responsible to ensure and test tracking? Merchant, network or affiliate?
    Melanie
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  11. #11
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Tough one! The merchant is responsible for tracking on their site. The network is responsible for their part. Super affiliates test links monthly for their highest converting links.

    Ideally, a network should employ technology to verify tracking. Tuesday I noticed low revenue for a merchant, notified the merchant and the network. Neither had noticed, it turned out to be the merchant. All three of us stood to lose revenue including the merchant rep as it would have gone on another departments reports.

  12. #12
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mellie
    Who do you think should be responsible to ensure and test tracking? Merchant, network or affiliate?
    I would say the network, they have more to lose overall.
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  13. #13
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mellie
    Who do you think should be responsible to ensure and test tracking? Merchant, network or affiliate?
    Network. They are responsible for testing it on THEIR end.

    Of course, any smart merchant is going to test it every month at least anyway and affiliates about as much.

    But the responsibility, legally and ethically, lies with the network in this case.
    Matt McWilliams
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  14. #14
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Network. They are responsible for testing it on THEIR end.

    Of course, any smart merchant is going to test it every month at least anyway and affiliates about as much.

    But the responsibility, legally and ethically, lies with the network in this case.
    __________________
    If the pixel has been removed by the merchant then legally they are responsible for the loss of revenue to the affiliate and network. If the network drops tracking then the reverse is true. Not sure how you would go about recovering with out a lawsuit in the state.

  15. #15
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    I certainly see this has being something that the Network should be testing, because as mentioned above they loose when we loose, and they are in the best position to do frequent random checks and report the results across their network and notify the merchants on the fly of a tracking issue and the type of issue, be it failed tracking, bad data, duplicate orders etc.

    Cheers

    Chris
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  16. #16
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    We are working on this technology for our in-house platform primarily due to the merchant changing pages and dropping code.

  17. #17
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    One of the primary purposes of a "trusted third party" is to ensure that commission payments are distributed in a timely manner. Why should they not be responsible for ensuring that sales are being tracked as well?

    I think the network should be responsible for testing and ensuring that the merchant has tracking mechanisms/pixels in place.

    Think about it. If you, as an affiliate, log in to your account at any affiliate network, and find that links are being served up for you to use to promote merchants who have had EPC of $0.00 for an extended period of time - sometimes even YEARS - because they have removed tracking pixels from their sites.... but they (and all of their links) remain active on the network by virtue of the fact that they still had a positive balance in their network account before the tracking pixels were removed? I have a name for this phenomenon: "noshareofthesale".
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  18. #18
    Advocate mellie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris - AMWSO
    I certainly see this has being something that the Network should be testing, because as mentioned above they loose when we loose, and they are in the best position to do frequent random checks and report the results across their network and notify the merchants on the fly of a tracking issue and the type of issue, be it failed tracking, bad data, duplicate orders etc.

    Cheers

    Chris

    This question is for everyone and not just Chris
    Do you also think affiliates should be notified of tracking problems at the same time? Or just make a report available upon request? If it is the role of a network to monitor is it also their obligation to ensure all parties are informed?
    Melanie
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  19. #19
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mellie
    This question is for everyone and not just Chris
    Do you also think affiliates should be notified of tracking problems at the same time? Or just make a report available upon request? If it is the role of a network to monitor is it also their obligation to ensure all parties are informed?
    No its mine all mine

    I would say yes it is their role to ensure everyone is informed. Of course the question might be raised as to "how long before the network inform everyone" which to me is answered as follows... well if it's an automated process of checking then it's an automated process of creating a report within the network that affiliates can check on at any time. So it not only shows whether they are correctly tracking now, BUT also their history of correctly tracking...or not as the case may be. Perhaps if merchants know that their history of "oops there went the pixel" is shown in black and red then they'll be far more interested in ensuring their tracking is working at all times.

    Cheers

    Chris
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  20. #20
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mellie
    Do you also think affiliates should be notified of tracking problems at the same time? Or just make a report available upon request? If it is the role of a network to monitor is it also their obligation to ensure all parties are informed?
    A report wouldn't provide the immediate notification that would be required by affiliates utilizing PPC. Networks should be obligated to notify affiliates as soon as they have confirmed a tracking issue at the network or merchant level so that affiliates can make the necessary adjustments.

    -rematt
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  21. #21
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    Perhaps if merchants know that their history of "oops there went the pixel" is shown in black and red then they'll be far more interested in ensuring their tracking is working at all times.
    And likewise for paying on time... going offline due to negative funds and so on.

  22. #22
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris - AMWSO
    Perhaps if merchants know that their history of "oops there went the pixel" is shown in black and red then they'll be far more interested in ensuring their tracking is working at all times.
    It's not unusual to expect the occasional tracking issue, however it would be great to see where the chronic issues are. It would definitely make a difference in who I would promote.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  23. #23
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    I agree. Networks need to have their own tracking systems. Its crucial!!
    If a network goes down (tracking) its their responsibility to credit affiliate lost sales.

    Is this common practice? NO! Should it be? OF COURSE.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    Tough one! The merchant is responsible for tracking on their site. The network is responsible for their part. Super affiliates test links monthly for their highest converting links.

    Ideally, a network should employ technology to verify tracking. Tuesday I noticed low revenue for a merchant, notified the merchant and the network. Neither had noticed, it turned out to be the merchant. All three of us stood to lose revenue including the merchant rep as it would have gone on another departments reports.

  24. #24
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    We need a verifiable procedure for sending network complaints about affiliates, especially when they are sending fraudulent sales or leads. This is probably worth its own thread but I would like to detail the procedures for the top networks with the intent that we take what is effective and request it from all of them. Does anyone have an interest in this subject?

  25. #25
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    We need a verifiable procedure for sending network complaints about affiliates, especially when they are sending fraudulent sales or leads. This is probably worth its own thread but I would like to detail the procedures for the top networks with the intent that we take what is effective and request it from all of them. Does anyone have an interest in this subject?
    Yes but doesn't it, by the nature of the process, require that networks are involved in the discussion? Or would the aim be to create a process and then ask the networks to implement it?

    Cheers

    Chris
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