Amazon Affiliate Reviews - Potential Legal Issue?

by lizbot
3 replies
I'm new to the world of IM (as in, been lurking for a few months, but I'm just starting to take action now) and my first venture is an Amazon Affiliate site.

Lacking the money to buy each of the products I'm going to review, my approach has been to a) look at the official product specs and b) do a thorough read-through of all the customer comments on the item to get a sense of the effectiveness of the item and any potential design problems my readers would want to know about. To be honest, I think this is probably a better way to review products anyway, as a lot of quality issues don't become apparent until after months of continuous use.

Right now, my plan isn't to limit my reviews to the best of the best in my niche. Ideally, I want to cover a range of products of different quality levels, so my readers can see I'm not just in this for the money. I'm also hoping it will let me snag people googling for inferior products and let me point them to something that would better serve their needs.

But here's the issue. I was explaining the plan to a couple of friends and their immediate concern was liability -- not from readers buying a product and not liking it, but from manufacturers unhappy about design flaws and reliability issues my review has pointed out.

Like I say, I'm basing most of my work on Amazon customer reviews -- they're hardly peer-reviewed studies and, while I'm careful to only include trends in my reviews (i.e., if a bunch of people say their product failed after less than a year, I'll mention it, but if one person says it spontaneously caught fire and burned their house down I probably wouldn't) they can be faked. I was considering linking to individual reviews as "sources", but that's hardly evidence of a trend.

So, yeah. I want to be forthright about problems with the products I'm reviewing, but I don't want the manufacturers to come after me because I'm saying critical things about their products that I can't prove.

I know the rule is, "Don't take legal advice from the internet" (and, if it matters, I'm in Canada, though I'm using Amazon.com's affiliate program right now), but how do experienced Amazon Affiliate reviewers handle this problem? Do you take any precautions to limit your liability? Have any of you ever had manufacturers come after you for a bad (or at least critical) review?
#affiliate #amazon #amazon affiliate #issue #legal #legal problems #potential #reviews
  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    For me, it comes down to two words: disclaimer and transparency.

    If I write a review for something based on surveying other peoples' comments, I say so. I also tend to base this type of 'journalist review' on feedback posted in more than one place. (Amazon, Walmart, Consumer Reports if available, etc.)

    If I do happen to own/use the item, I'm careful to seperate my personal opinions and experiences from the group experience, especially if mine is considerably different.

    As long as you identify opinions as opinions rather than facts, you should be fine. No sane vendor is goig to come after you for writing 'I tried it and I didn't like it' or 'according to published reviews online, some people who buy this itme have thus-and-such problem or objection'.

    You can even say "the product sucks" or "the vendor sucks" - that's an opinion. You can't say "the vendor is a thief who molests collies." That's slander or libel, depending on your forum.

    A vendor may not like your review, even ask you to change or remove it, but my layman's opinion as an affiliate is that they can't sue you for not liking their product. If that were possible, the militant vegans and animal rights whackos would have hot dogs off the market already...

    (I respect your right to limit what you put down your pie hole, as long as you don't try to shove the same limitations down mine. See my sig. )
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    • Profile picture of the author lotsofsnow
      Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

      For me, it comes down to two words: disclaimer and transparency.

      If I write a review for something based on surveying other peoples' comments, I say so. I also tend to base this type of 'journalist review' on feedback posted in more than one place. (Amazon, Walmart, Consumer Reports if available, etc.)

      If I do happen to own/use the item, I'm careful to seperate my personal opinions and experiences from the group experience, especially if mine is considerably different.

      As long as you identify opinions as opinions rather than facts, you should be fine. No sane vendor is goig to come after you for writing 'I tried it and I didn't like it' or 'according to published reviews online, some people who buy this itme have thus-and-such problem or objection'.

      You can even say "the product sucks" or "the vendor sucks" - that's an opinion. You can't say "the vendor is a thief who molests collies." That's slander or libel, depending on your forum.

      A vendor may not like your review, even ask you to change or remove it, but my layman's opinion as an affiliate is that they can't sue you for not liking their product. If that were possible, the militant vegans and animal rights whackos would have hot dogs off the market already...

      (I respect your right to limit what you put down your pie hole, as long as you don't try to shove the same limitations down mine. See my sig. )
      This is an excellent answer. The only thing I do not get is " See my sig. )". What has your answer to do with Salad eating fish. LOL
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    • Profile picture of the author lizbot
      Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

      For me, it comes down to two words: disclaimer and transparency.

      If I write a review for something based on surveying other peoples' comments, I say so. I also tend to base this type of 'journalist review' on feedback posted in more than one place. (Amazon, Walmart, Consumer Reports if available, etc.)

      If I do happen to own/use the item, I'm careful to seperate my personal opinions and experiences from the group experience, especially if mine is considerably different.

      As long as you identify opinions as opinions rather than facts, you should be fine. No sane vendor is goig to come after you for writing 'I tried it and I didn't like it' or 'according to published reviews online, some people who buy this itme have thus-and-such problem or objection'.

      You can even say "the product sucks" or "the vendor sucks" - that's an opinion. You can't say "the vendor is a thief who molests collies." That's slander or libel, depending on your forum.

      A vendor may not like your review, even ask you to change or remove it, but my layman's opinion as an affiliate is that they can't sue you for not liking their product. If that were possible, the militant vegans and animal rights whackos would have hot dogs off the market already...

      (I respect your right to limit what you put down your pie hole, as long as you don't try to shove the same limitations down mine. See my sig. )
      Thanks for this. I'm largely doing this already, but broadening my resource pool (Walmart, etc.) is a great idea.

      (One day, once I have more than six posts, I'll thank you properly!)
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