It isn’t every month that affiliates of Amazon Associates program receive emails as strongly worded as the one that they have sent out on the afternoon of October 26, 2015. But the situation called for it and all Amazon.com’s affiliates who have not yet taken action to declare their websites as non-targeting “children under the age of 13” were advised to re-attend their website profiles or… be terminated from the affiliate program. Here is an excerpts from the email in question (highlighting mine):
THIS IS A FINAL NOTICE
Our records show that you have not completed the declaration confirming that none of your websites are directed at children under the age of 13. This declaration is a mandatory requirement for participation in the Amazon Associates Program, and as such, your payments have been placed on hold as of August 31, 2015. On October 31, 2015, your account will be closed if your declaration has not been completed. Any final funds payable will be issued via the payment method we have on file. Once your account is closed it cannot be reopened.
Take Action Now
To complete the declaration:
- Sign in to your Associates Central account at
- Click on “Account Settings”, then click on “Edit your website list”
- Ensure ‘Your website list’ is accurate – by adding new websites or removing existing ones from the list
- Click on “Next” and complete the declaration process
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
The Amazon Associates Team
Compelling, wouldn’t you agree?
Here Amazon explains that “because of restrictions on advertising found in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and in related regulations” they are not willing to accept “websites that are directed primarily at children under 13” as affiliates. Additionally, affiliates “may not show banners, widgets, special links, or other ads from Amazon Associates to users” who are known to be “under 13, even on a website that is not child-directed.”
The above-referenced Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a United States federal law that dates back to late 1998 when
at the dawn of affiliate marketing it spelled out the rules governing the online collection of personal information from children under 13 years of age. It was refined more than once since its original coming into power [see all the amendments on the FTC’s website here] with the latest requirements presupposing the following elements of compliance:
- Direct notice to parents (or guardians),
- Verifiable parental consent,
- Reasonable means for a parent to review the personal information collected and ability to refuse its use/maintenance,
- Protection of confidentiality, security, and integrity of the personal information collected
…and more | see The National Law Review‘s “Guide to Compliance with the Amended Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule“
Furthermore, this law is applicable not only to US-based websites, but also to websites hosted on US-based servers, websites whose headquarters are located in the U.S., and websites that do not cater to kids but may be visited by children. In line with the latter, Yelp, for example, had to pay a $450,000 civil penalty because (between 2009 and 2013) in the course of their registration process they collected “personal information from children through the Yelp app without first notifying parents and obtaining their consent” [more here].
We have seen in the past that/how regulatory authorities may deem affiliate marketers an extension of advertisers’ sales force (and at times rightfully so). Examples of affiliate nexus tax and rules regarding endorsements and testimonials come to mind.
Now, when it comes to ensuring compliance with a law, or even an affiliate program’s internal policy/rule, there are always two routes:
(i) engage in active policing and enforcement
(ii) eliminate the very need for policing
The former requires suitable and reliable tools (after all, it’s the advertiser’s brand that is being put on the front line); and in the absence of the appropriate tools (and/or resources to dedicate to it), merchants frequently prefer the latter. This is the path that “Amazon Associates Team” is now taking in relation to COOPA and “related regulations.”
My opinion? It’s their business decision which shouldn’t be viewed in the light of right vs. wrong dichotomy. Deontologically speaking, I would qualify this more as an obligatory action — one that, taking all circumstances into account, is required. By “circumstances” I imply the potential legal implications/complications, lack of tools to streamline effective compliance policing, and possibly insignificant marketing value (or impact) of kids-oriented websites to this merchant.
If you are an advertiser with an affiliate program or an affiliate manager, there is definitely something to actively think about now.