I received a very curious email this morning from Amazon Associates. For those who don't know, the Amazon Associates program is basically a referral system, where Associates get a small percentage of sales made from links they post. Examples can be found on my websites. All of the Amazon ads on www.martiningham.com and www.martinus.us are part of the associates program. I don't make a lot of money from these referrals, but some people rake in some serious cash from the program—a few people even make their living this way.
As I said, I got a "curious" email. It seems Amazon.com is summarily canceling all Associates accounts from people living in Maine. Here is what they have to say:
Greetings from the Amazon Associates Program.
We're writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective October 6, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Maine state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor LePage on June 5, 2013, with an effective date of October 9, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after October 6, nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Maine residents.
Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned prior to October 7, 2013, will be processed and paid in full in accordance with your regular advertising fee schedule. Based on your account closure date of October 6, 2013, any final payments will be paid by December 31, 2013.
While we oppose this unconstitutional state legislation, we strongly support the federal Marketplace Fairness Act now pending before Congress. Congressional legislation is the only way to create a simplified, constitutional framework to resolve interstate sales tax issues and it would allow us to re-open our Associates program to Maine residents.
We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and look forward to re-opening our program when Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act.
The Amazon Associates Team
When I asked Amazon about this issue, they were unable to cite the "unconstitutional" legislation in question, but I assume they are referring to LD346, which mandates that online retailers collect sales tax for any sale they make in Maine, even if said retailer is outside of Maine. Yes, this is in violation of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, so Amazon is correct to call it unconstitutional. What they don't tell you is that this legislation does exactly what the Marketplace Fairness Act would do for every single State! The MFA would mandate that every seller collect sales tax for interstate sales; a logistical nightmare for small sellers (like Martinus Publishing).
It is no secret that Amazon.com is a huge supporter of this so-called "Marketplace Fairness Act," as it will empower mega-businesses like them and place serious burdens on small retailers. Its constitutionality is questionable, and it paves the way for a National Sales Tax, which is what some government officials have been salivating over for years. It's more big-government BS in my opinion, and we don't need it.
I find it offensive that Amazon is attempting to terrorize Maine Associates into becoming lobbyists for their cause. Their objective over this action is obvious to anyone who stops to think about it. They want Maine-based Associates to now write politicians (like Senator Susan Collins) and beg them to support the MFA, aka the "Increase Amazon's Marketshare Act."
This is just the start. If this political lobbying works with Maine-based Associates, it'll set a dangerous precedent, and Amazon will try it elsewhere. It's disheartening when big business tries to bully the consumer this way, and we shouldn't support it. As a retail business, Amazon should spend their resources trying to serve customers and sell products, not advance Federal legislation.