They may not be trying to intentionally kill their affiliate program but announcing the intent to steal affiliate commissions may just accomplish that. Earlier this week, Art.com and AllPosters.com announced a change to their affiliate agreement. Under the new agreement, if you earn under $20 in a year you will forfeit your commissions. Commissions will not rollover to the next year, they will be lost.Their year runs from June 1 to May 31.
Excerpt from the copy of the email sent to their Affiliates posted in a thread at Abestweb (see thread at ABW for the complete email):
Effective today, we are introducing a change to our program that affects how commissions are earned and paid. Please review the information below.
These changes are being introduced as part of an effort to simplify our internal operations. The net result of these changes will be to reduce our operations requirements with respect to inactive affiliates. The benefits to our active affiliates will include improved reporting and a greater ability to respond to your needs.
We believe these changes will have minimal impact to our active affiliates. For further details, please see the new version of the program Operations Agreement, which was posted today.
In addition to the commission-related changes described above and in the FAQs below, we are also harmonizing our Art.com and AllPosters.com programs. To support this effort, a change was made to the Art.com Operations Agreement with regard to the 10-day cookie. While the 10-day cookie is still supported, the program will now include a last-cookie principle. This means that we will credit a sale to a different affiliate or to an Art.com sales channel if the visitor clicks through a Special Link from such other affiliate’s website or advertisement after such visitor clicks through a Special Link on your website.
Q: What is being changed?
A: We are implementing a minimum annual sales requirement. For any given program year, no commission will be earned or paid unless and until you have achieved at least 20 commission credits. And, for affiliates that do not generate at least 20 commission credits in a program year, any commission credits existing in their account will be deleted from their account.
Under these new terms, if you earn $19 in a year you will not get paid and you will lose your earnings.
Although they say that the changes will only “minimally affect” active affiliates, active affiliates should be aware and cautious in their acceptance of this new agreement. Every Affiliate should read the complete Operating Agreement before deciding to accept new terms. If you continue in the program you are accepting the terms.
If you are not a big producer and are concerned that you will not reach the $20 a year commission threshold you can receive all commissions earned by terminating your account.
Q: What can I do if I do not wish to continue in the program?
A: If you do not wish to continue in the program, you may terminate your account by emailing (email removed) or (email removed). If you terminate your account by May 30, 2010, we will issue to you a commission payment equal to the commission credits in your account regardless of the amount of commission credits in your account. For example, even if you have only 6 commission credits in your account and would not otherwise receive a payout under the program rules, we will issue you a payment for $6 if you terminate your account by May 30, 2010.
Every Affiliate needs to set their own criteria and minimum standards for merchants and programs they promote. Decide whether the new terms offered by these programs meets your own criteria and make a business decision whether or not to continue to promote AllPosters and Art.com. I am not a member of either program but if I were, I would be closing my account, regardless of my earnings. For me, this is an unacceptable policy.
Although they are being open about the new terms, this new agreement is an example of bad merchant practice. It is one thing to set a minimum payout threshold, it is another to set a minimum earnings threshold. A merchant stealing affiliate commissions, with or without permission, is not good merchant practice.
If merchant wants to set a standard for Affiliate performance there are other ways to achieve it. While I do not agree with it, a merchant can adopt the “get active or you will be removed” policy. Some merchants will do this to streamline their Affiliate managements or to “motivate” Affiliates.
Merchants, if you are looking for better ways to improve your Affiliate program and motivate Affiliates, consider adopting good merchant practices. Provide Affiliates with the tools they need, offer assistance and offer positive reinforcement. Achievable bonuses and commission perks will attract and motivate Affiliates more than threats and stolen commissions.
Remember, tomorrow’s super Affiliate comes from today’s small, or even non producing, Affiliate.