A few days ago, Amazon sent out an email to all associates reminding them about FTC disclosure requirements and compliance with Amazon Associates’ own Operating Agreements.
There’s been a lot of chatter about what this means, and what associates need to do in order to stay compliant.
A lot of the chatter has shown that Amazon’s email and the FTC requirements have been misunderstood.
This makes sense, since Amazon’s email was a little confusing/vague:
One of the higher-ups at Amazon reached out to me to give some further clarifications.
Since we are planning to make changes to our own sites, plus those of our partners and investors, I decided to write this post to give some more information to the general public to help spread the word.
The TL:DR – Having an affiliate disclosure in your footer is not sufficient.
What Is The Compliance Issue?
Amazon received complaints to the FTC surrounding the Prime Day promos earlier this year, and how the majority of product recommendations made by associates were not fully disclosed as being paid endorsements.
In other words, people were being spammed with non-disclosed affiliate links.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Based on this complaint (which came from the Consumer Protection Bureau), Amazon is in the cross-hairs of the FTC, and wants its associates to be more compliant.
What Do We Need To Do About It?
They can’t tell us exactly what to put on our sites, because it’s the FTC who writes and interprets the rules, but they’ve given us some examples and guidance, which I’ll go into below.
Footer Links Not Enough
I suggest you read the FTC’s guidelines on the matter, which can be found here.
Here’s a line from the article:
If you disclose your relationship to the retailer clearly and conspicuously on your site, readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement.
A footer blurb about being part of Amazon’s associates program isn’t really clear and conspicuous.
As for where to place a disclosure, the guiding principle is that it has to be clear and conspicuous. The closer it is to your recommendation, the better. Putting disclosures in obscure places – for example, buried on an ABOUT US or GENERAL INFO page, behind a poorly labeled hyperlink or in a “terms of service” agreement – isn’t good enough. Neither is placing it below your review or below the link to the online retailer so readers would have to keep scrolling after they finish reading.
Do We Need To Mark Every Single Link?
That much is probably overkill, unless you’re sharing on social media. For example, an instagram post with just one Amazon associates link in it? Yeah, you’d want to mark that as a paid endorsement.
A blog post with 10 Amazon links in it? You just need to make it clear that your content is paid endorsements, not necessarily every single link on that page.
Again from the FTC article:
In some instances – like when the affiliate link is embedded in your product review – a single disclosure may be adequate. When the review has a clear and conspicuous disclosure of your relationship and the reader can see both the review containing that disclosure and the link at the same time, readers have the information they need. You could say something like, “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.”
Two Good Examples
The two articles below show two different ways of disclosing links that are “probably” fine. I can’t say for sure how the FTC interprets the rules, but it looks hard to argue that the examples below are not clear. Notice how both of them contain disclosures at the top of the articles.
As you can see, there’s more than one way to disclose, and you can do it in a way that is personable and builds trust, you don’t have to be a robot about it.
I Don’t Live In The US – Do I Need To Care?
It’s not relevant where you live. Amazon is the one who receives the complaints from the FTC and is in their cross-hairs.
If an Amazon associate isn’t FTC compliant, what do you think Amazon is going to do to their associates account?
Make Sure You Update Your Sites
Taking no action is a mistake. Amazon sent out these emails as a direct reaction to a complaint about them, and it’s not a simple reminder email.
How will this affect conversions? I’m actually fairly skeptical it will actually affect your conversion rates. In fact, it might just help build some trust with your audience and may IMPROVE your conversion rates.
Either way, it’s a mistake to do nothing, and we will be updating all our sites accordingly.