The rise of unethical behaviour in the bingo affiliate industry

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F January 12, 2015
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The rise of unethical behaviour in the bingo affiliate industry

The bingo affiliates world is highly competitive and very hard to penetrate. In order to make a fair earning, one must invest time, considerable efforts and money to generate a volume traffic level which in turn creates the revenue.

It is therefore disheartening to find out that the very brand for which you worked so hard to bring traffic and generating revenue, close their doors to you. The following are 2 cases I have encountered during my time as an affiliates:

Case study1: The Bad Change of Ownership

I have recently experienced this case far too often for my liking. I spent months if not years developing a good realtionship with the brands I cover. During that time I generate a fair and regular amount of traffic and subsequent revenue. The revenue is not very high but it is ticking along and every penny counts.

Then, I get an email from the current owner to tell me that the brand(s) were sold and that the new owner had decided to terminate the affiliate program. With a notice period of 1 month, I went from getting a decent revenue to zero. Yet the affiliate program is still advertised, and I can still have access to my stats and I can therefore continue seeing what the users I generated are bringing to the brand. When contacting the old and new owner to request that the revenue generated by the players I obtain for them be paid, they both point the finger at each other as far as the liability is concerned. Since affiliates are so badly protected T&Cs wise, no much can be done legally, and the months or years of efforts spent just disappeared.

To me, this behavior is totally unacceptable and unethical, both from the current owner whose responsibility it is to protect its current clients and revenue makers, and from the new owner who clearly see an opportunity to make more money at the expense of the very same people who brought players to the brand in the first place (us affiliates). I jeopardize the very foundation of business by betraying the trusting relationship in the partnership that Bingo brands and affiliates have.


Case study2: the truly ugly: Terminating the program by current owner for fabricated reason.

From very early on I encountered problem with the brand Bingo Entertainment Ltd and their "affiliate Bingo Network" who run Gina Bingo and Ritzy Bingo. It was very difficult to get any reply from anyone there. Every single payment was late. The statistics were not correct and continuously looked suspicious. When getting replies, the answers didn't make sense and were very vague.

Despite having so much trouble, I persevere and kept the brands on my sites. However, on several occasions, because of late payments and the absence of reply or excuse, I temporarily removed the brands until such time I got paid. It was a consistent battle to get any payment or reply throughout the relationship and since 2008.

In 2013, they changed their affiliate site URL and stats system but it didn't occur to them to actually communicate the change to the affiliates. As a result, during that time, the tracking links placed on my sites were redundant as not upadted to the latest ones.

After countless copying just about any email contact I could find on all the sites they owned, I finally got a reply back and my new login details. When checking my account, I saw that I had several big players and made a payment request. As always, I had to chase the payment for several months before getting paid, and again froze the traffic from our sites.

During that time, I updated the new links on my sites which continued generating traffic. In January 2014, I made another payment request. A few days later I tried to login to check my stats but with no prevail. My login details didnt work anymore. I therefore contacted Bingo Entertainment whose reply was on time for once as follows:

From: Scott 
Sent: 06 February 2014 10:59
To: 'Fabien'
Subject: RE: URGENT: Stats Issue - Payment request Issue

Hi Fabien,

Thanks for your email.

As previously discussed and following your confirmation that our brands are hold, Management have decided they have no choice but to implement  the following from our Affiliate Terms and Conditions:

3.4 Affiliate accounts which have not actively been promoting the game/site or affiliate accounts with less than 5 created and funded player accounts in the last 30 days can at the discretion of management be disabled and any pending payments forfeited.

 This means your account has been disabled with any funds also being forfeited. If you in the future you decide you want to start actively promoting us again, Management will consider reactivating your account.

Please get back to me if you have any further questions.

Best regards,

Scott.

Bingo Entertainment.

I was obviously shocked and outrage as I had not had any prior warning. So here is the email I sent back:

Sent: 06 February 2014 16:02
To: 'Scott'
Subject: RE: URGENT: Stats Issue - Payment request Issue
Importance: High

Scott,

The brands were promoted in December and January on our sites hence the figures displayed on your system before the payment request. You actively removed any trace of our traffic which demonstrated that we were actively promoting the site. Why???

Secondly, when did you actually discuss this with us??? We do not have any notice. You did not provide us with any notice as per point 16 and point 17.2 of the agreement. Having said that, your agreement is breaching many of the European fair and standard trade rules. It consequently has very little weight in any European courts.

Furthermore beside the legal part which you quickly highlighted, It is totally outrageous that you hold our payment generated from the players we sent you (Traffic that we have worked hard to generate and traffic that we have paid for). In 15 years in the gaming industry I have never faced such an unethical action from any brand I have covered.

The only reason we temporarily disabled your links in a first place is because you were not paying what was owed to us on time and you continuously delayed payments and refused to reply, giving us no alternative but to temporarily disable your links. Actions which were taken after numerous emails sent to you regarding outstanding payments, system and stats issues which you ignored at the time. Each time payment was received all links were re-activated. I have kept a copy of all emails sent and received to you since our joining date in 2010.

I find your action and behavior totally unacceptable and I will not hesitate to take further actions if you do not pay what is owed to us. We have a significant presence within the online bingo industry and social media.

Funnily enough, I have not heard from them since. I tried to check on their company in Cyprus, I tried to contact their license provider in Curacao. Their company and license are structured in such a way that you simply cannot legally attack. My researches have shown me that their bingo sites were not very successful, and I suspect they are trying to cut corners to make money. To me this is highly fraudulent, and more importantly unethical.

The moral of the above is to read the terms and conditions very carefully and deal only with well established brands whose T&Cs offer protection for affiliates such as termination notice, payment after termination, regulations in reliable jurisdictions etc.

I would also like to add that there is a way to retaliate though and that is simply to spread the words about those companies, people and brands. I am currently preparing an affiliate program black list with reason and descriptions. I am also ensuring that the brands are still on my sites so that I get some SEO juice from them but I redirect them to other brands. A warning about the redirection is clearly displayed to my users. In other word, they know they will be directly to a similar site but not the site reviewed itself.

 

If you have had similar experiences, please do share them with us here, we would love to hear and add to the black list.

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