Income Access Warning - Caution RatingMost of us probably think of Income Access as an affiliate software provider that is similar in nature to affiliate software providers Net Refer and My Affiliates. Whilst this may be true in part and on the surface, the fact remains that IA is quite different from these other affiliate software companies. In this Income Access warning, I am going to build a very strong case on why affiliates should proceed only with the utmost of caution when "partnering up" with Income Access affiliate programs. Additionally, I plan to explain key differences between IA and their so-called peers and finally, this Income Access cautionary review will explain why and how Income Access enables operators to steal from affiliates.
Similarities between affiliate software providersAll three software packages are flexible in the information they provide. Common features such as customized reporting, ability to track activity from click to conversion (and beyond), media delivery, branding, and the ability to drill down with charts, graphs, and tables are all features that are common to each affiliate management platform. In addition to these features, each platform either states or implies the ability to receive and report real time data. Worth mentioning is that each program shows clicks in real time but few, if any show instant real money player activity or conversion information. Moreover, players and trackers can be transferred to and from affiliate account to affiliate account on each software package. Trackers and players can be added or removed to and from affiliate accounts at will. All of this is controllable at the affiliate manager/operator level.
In addition to the similarities mentioned above, each piece of software relies on a data feed that is provided by customers and gaming networks. The reports are retrieved, converted, and later displayed in the interface for the affiliate to review.
In examining the affiliate software similarities, each of them pretty much does the same thing. There are no major differences in terms of features of each of the software packages. This is a point that is difficult to dispute and easily conceded. When looking at the software "out of the box", it becomes a matter of personal preference just like deciding on a specific contact management package, project management software, or day planner.
Distinct Differences Between Software ProvidersMy Affiliates, Net Refer, and Income Access all provide software, handle reporting, and provide support business to operator. For two of the three companies, this is where the relationship ends as neither My Affiliate nor Net Refer enter into business to affiliate relationships. Thus, these two programs (My Affiliates & Net Refer) only provide tracking/reporting software and support for said software. Whilst Income Access also provides tracking and reporting software to a variety of operators, they also provide affiliate marketing services. Thus, they build relationships and maintain relationship with both operators and affiliates.
Obviously, Income Access is empowered to do business on behalf of gaming operators. When an affiliate chooses to promote a program that the Income Access marketing team promotes, they must sign up for an Income Access account and agree to the terms and conditions of the specific program. The sign up screen for these Income Access programs brings you to the Income Access website, where the affiliate must both register with Income Access and agree to the terms and conditions set up by Income Access. Thus, when an affiliate signs up, they are signing up for an account with Income Access.
When negotiating compensation for promoting a gaming program, the negotiations occur between the affiliate and the Income Access representative. When dealing with day-to-day issues, (tracking issues, marketing material requests, reporting questions, and payment issues), it is a member of the Income Access team that affiliates deal with. In fact, the Income Access affiliate marketing team conveniently handles the entire relationship between the operator and the affiliate.
The terms and conditions upon signing up for an Income Access program, combined with dealing directly with an Income Access employee for day-to-day issues. In fact, Income Access handles each and every aspect of the relationship on behalf of the operator. That is, they handle every aspect of the relationship until it is no longer convenient for them to do so.
How Affiliates Are PaidWhen an affiliate does business with a Net Refer (powered) program or a My Affiliates (powered) program, they establish a direct relationship with the marketing arm of the individual operator or operators. For example, when an affiliate promotes Paddy Power (who uses Net Refer for reporting); they establish a relationship with Paddy Partners. When an affiliate program does business with Chip Split (a My Affiliates powered program), they are doing business directly with the brands that are owned/associated with Chip Split, which are PDC Poker, Carbon Poker, and Aced. In each of these instances, both Chip Split and Paddy Partners take direct responsibility for the payments to their affiliates from the programs that they represent.
Thus, Paddy Partners ensures payment for the affiliates they work with and Chip Split directly provides payments to affiliates for marketing activity generated by affiliates for their programs. In the event that Carbon Poker happened to default on their payments to affiliates, rest assured that their affiliate manager Atil would take responsibility for the default, as he represents Carbon Poker on behalf of Chip Split to his affiliates. Thus, if Atil was unable to make affiliate commission payments for whatever reason (Carbon didn't transfer the funds, a payment processor was giving them issues, insert whatever reason here), his Chip Split brand and Carbon Poker would both "own" the blame. The same stands true with Paddy Partners, as both Paddy Partners and Paddy Power would share in the blame in the event of a non-payment.
Income Access Has Their Cake and Eats It TooIncome Access is in a unique position where they are able to have their cake and eat it too. By no means am I making the claim that Income Access is unethical in their intentions. However, their very business model makes it extremely easy for programs to cheat affiliates. Income Access serves in the very same capacity with their relationship between affiliates and operators that Paddy Partners and Chip Split do. However, instead of accepting blame or making things right if an operator goes belly up, withholds payment, cheats affiliates, or has payment processing issues - they have seemingly immunized themselves from blame.
Instead of owning the blame for placing an affiliate into a situation where they are not paid, Income Access falls back on a clause in their terms and conditions that reads a bit like the following:
"COMMISSION AND REFERRAL BONUS"
You shall be entitled to a commission as outlined in the merchant's terms and conditions. Income Access does not process your payments for commissions this is the responsibility of the merchant."
This commission and referral bonus stipulation (that is present on Income Access promoted programs) suggests that Income Access handles all aspects of the affiliate to operator relationship but they have nothing to do with money or payments. When such things occur, Income Access simply excuses themselves from representing the operator. Mind you, they are the beard for the operator all the while. When and if something goes wrong with payments, the beard comes off and they quickly claim "separation between Church and State", specifically citing the above term.
In instances of this nature where an operator "skates out" of paying commissions earned by affiliates through an Income Access managed program, Income Access often cites that they too are owed money by the operator as well. They have gone on to claim they are not just owed "current month's" fees, but instead they have been owed money for several months before they finally "pull the plug". If this is the case, why does Income Access not notify the affiliates they are working with? Why are no warnings issued?
Because no warning is issued and because Income Access handles all aspects of the affiliate-operator relationship (short of paying out), they are in a unique position of being able to have their cake and eat it too. Income Access goes on "business as usual" and acts surprised or offended when affiliates call them out for "owning" their part in the short-changing.
Either Income Access DOES NOT Process Payments or They Do - Which is It?Income Access claims they do not process payments, as this is the responsibility of the operator to pay out affiliates. However, one must wonder just exactly how true this statement is. Income Access introduced a convenient and affiliate friendly feature called "Consolidated Payments" which lets affiliates are paid by multiple Income Access promoted programs in one easy, convenient payment. Per the Income Access website (located in the Income Access FAQ's):
1. What is Consolidated PaymentsConsolidated Payments is our way of simplifying financial transactions for affiliates. Before December 1st, 2008, affiliates would receive a separate payment for each merchant partner, but only as long as they reached each individual merchant's threshold. These transactions could be received by different methods for different merchants. Now Income Access combines all merchant payments into one simple sum per affiliate. This will be paid by one selected payment method. As long as the monthly sum reaches the threshold for that payment method, the affiliate will be paid."
This explains that all payments earned by affiliates by the various Income Access marketed operators can be combined and paid out in one payment, as opposed to receiving moneys in several instalments from each operator. This sounds quite for the affiliate, as there is less accounting work for the affiliate. This also makes sense, as affiliates working "with Income Access" tend to view all IA Programs as one big program anyway.
However, whilst this payment method makes complete sense, it begs the question of who provides the payments. This is addressed in answer number two of the Income Access Consolidated Payment FAQ (read on):
2. By Whom Do I Get Paid?Affiliates receive one payment a month from Income Access"
Oh? Hold on a second. We recall from earlier in this article (and from signing up with Income Access) that Income Access claims they do not process payments. Yet, the consolidated payments suggest they do. Which is it? Either Income Access DOES process affiliate commission payments or they do not process affiliate payments on behalf of their operators.
The fact that they (Income Access) provide consolidated commissions suggests they do in fact process affiliate payments, even if the terms and conditions claim they do not. Thus, it is unreasonable and just a flat lie for Income Access to claim they have nothing to do with the processing of affiliate payments in the event that an affiliate is either "no paid" or "short changed".
It is worth noting, however, that there are various levels options that operators can choose. For example, Income Access provides a tracking program for the entire Dragonfish bingo network. Income Access' level of involvement starts and finishes on the B2B level, as the software is integrated into the network. It reports player registrations and first time deposit counts in real time and posts click and financial data on a daily basis.
They also provide "White Label" services, which lets super affiliate management programs (similar to Paddy Partners for Paddy Power or UAffiliates for 888) pull data from their activities and post it to the affiliate as they see fit. In this type of relationship, Income Access has a hands off approach when it comes to interacting with affiliates, as the "white label" acts on behalf of the brand they represent. Again, in an instance of this nature, if 888 defaults, UAffiliates would rightfully take the heat.
In programs where Income Access deals with the affiliate or customer, they too should take heat when and if an operator goes under. It is unreasonable for them to refuse to pay out and/or shift from beard to fellow victim if they continue to operate through representing other programs.
Proceed with CautionBecause of their slippery business model, it makes sense to exercise extreme caution when dealing with ANY program that utilizes the marketing services of Income Access. They are the be-all, end-all for all aspects of the affiliate-program relationship until it comes time to get paid. Although terms and conditions of the program state they have nothing to do with payouts, the existence and nature of their consolidated payments platform suggest they certainly do.
Whilst Income Access does not have a hand in the antics put forth by white label programs, this caution also applies to white label programs utilizing Income Access programs. We strongly suggest you take the time to get to know your affiliate managers and the operator. You are also well served in obtaining very specific contact information outside of the marketing department in order to have a point of contact in case you must go over the head of the marketing department.
By getting a point of contact and taking time to know your potential program, you are doing yourself a great favour by assessing the character of the company. If the operator is unwilling to provide you contact information or just seems a bit "off" or even "shady", you should strongly consider finding another program to promote. Do a search or ask your peers about the quality of the program you are considering. If you hear tons of rumours about a certain white label (such as BeAffiliates) skimming players and commissions from their affiliates or you find out that Ladbrokes simply "quit" all US based affiliates, then these are programs that you definitely want to avoid. If they have cheated one person - even for as little as one player - what will stop them from cheating someone for more? What will stop them from cheating YOU?
Getting to know a program and doing your own due diligence is imperative to avoiding scams and/or getting shortchanged. We implore Income Access to take a good, hard look at their business model in order to right their ship. Specifically, we suggest they move to real time reporting (in the 21st century, this is not an unreasonable expectation), thus the affiliate and the operator can be acutely aware of swings, earnings, negative balances, and irregularities in reporting. Whilst the operator may be "the customer" in the eyes of Income Access, the fact remains that the affiliates that IA and operators work with drives the bus, picks up the players, and drops them into the lap of the operators.