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OFT warns affiliate marketers

By piranha

16th May 2012

Companies running affiliate marketing programmes have been warned by the consumer protection watchdog that they must punish affiliates carrying promotions which are misleading, otherwise they will face legal action.

MoreNiche, which runs a network of online shops and affiliates marketing and selling a variety of products including teeth whitening and diet aids, is one of the companies that the Office of Fair Trading has taken action against after affiliates were discovered to be using paid-for commercial promotions and passing them off as independent customer reviews.

The Office of Fair Trading also added that some affiliates’ sites failed to make it clear that they were being paid to promote products made by retailers in the MoreNiche network.

The OFT believes that consumers are more likely to purchase a product if prompted by a review rather than advertising.

The senior director of the goods and consumer group at the OFT, Cavendish Elithorn says “When looking at online reviews and comments, it is important that consumers are not misled about the status of what they are reading – who has written it and why it has been written. In particular, they need to know whether that reviewer is receiving any form of payment for promoting the product.

Innovative and vibrant businesses drive our economy but it is important that online businesses develop without compromising consumer protection. Ensuring transparency and fairness in online transactions is a key priority for the OFT and we will continue to take action when appropriate.”

It has since been agreed that MoreNiche will suspend affiliates that do not remove comments which may be construed as misleading.

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