Envato have a big presence in the WordPress and web development world. They own huge marketplaces such as ThemeForest and CodeCanyon which are the largest source of premium WordPress products.
Yesterday, I got an email from their support team that stated that my account had been disabled. As you can imagine, I was very concerned about this.
Envato Closed My Account Without Warning
Envato were short and sweet about the explanation about disabling my account.
The email said:
* Name of support staff replaced with X as I do not want any blame pointed at a specific individual
X here from Envato support. Your account has been disabled due to the following reason(s):
Spamming fellow members with the following content:
… sample email …
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reply back to this ticket.
After receiving the email, I immediately checked my account on ThemeForest. Sure enough, my account was disabled and there was a message stating that I had to contact help if I had any questions about the issue.
There were two things that worried me about this.
Firstly, I have purchased 44 items from the Envato marketplaces. With my account being disabled, I cannot download any up to date versions of WordPress plugins and themes I have purchased. That should not occur. I am a paying customer and should have access to all the items I have purchased.
Sadly, whether my account was deactivated or not, not being able to access files is a big problem for all Envato customers as when a product stops selling well, the author simply pulls the product from the marketplace.
There is a big problem with this practice as it means that the last version you had of the product could be a buggy mess and there is no option to download the last released version and no way to get a refund (Envato have a bad reputation for refunds).
The second problem was my main concern. I have been an active affiliate of Envato since 2008. Their affiliate program is pretty awful as they only pay a small percentage of the first deposit of new customers. This means that the majority of traffic that is sent their way results in no commissions being generated.
However, because ThemeForest is the largest premium WordPress theme store and CodeCanyon is the large premium WordPress plugin store, I have always had to refer traffic to them because around 95% of premium WordPress products can be found there. OK, technically I could have avoided linking to ThemeForest products, but I always wanted to review products I liked and many of those products were sold on Envato marketplaces.
In total I have earned around $7,000 in commissions since 2008 and I continue to promote products sold on Envato to this day.
When my account was disabled, all of the commissions generated this month were gone and I could not access anything. I was annoyed and worried.
Was I Spamming?
Those of you who know me are aware that I do not like spam. I am strongly against it. Therefore, to be accused (and technically convicted) of being a spammer was surprising.
What I had done over the last week or two was contact some developers through the contact form that is provided on Envato.
I have used the contact form on Envato marketplaces for many years to contact developers to ask for demo copies of their products so that I could review their themes and plugins. Likewise, many developers have contacted me directly through an Envato marketplace asking if I could review their product.
If I see a plugin or theme I like, I contact the developer and ask them for a test copy and ask if they would like a review. One reason I contact the developer of a theme or plugin directly though ThemeForest or CodeCanyon is because many developers do not have a website of their own. All they have is a coming soon page with their company logo. Therefore, contacting them via the contact form on Envato is the only way to get in touch.
Another reason is convenience. The form is one click away from the product page and my email is pre-entered into the form. So all I have to do is write a quick message and click send.
One of the people who I contacted complained.
Envato said that they have a no spam policy. The question is: Was I spamming?
Perhaps this depends on your perspective.
I receive emails from WordPress theme developers and plugin developers every single week asking me to review their products, join their affiliate program, or send a tweet to help promote their new theme or plugin.
Are those developers spammers?
No. I do not believe they are. I view them as entrepreneurs who are trying to get word out about the product they have spent weeks or months developing.
By that same token, I do not believe I was spamming anyone. I am simply a blogger who was trying to reach out to developers.
Envato’s Reaction to the Complaint
I was extremely disappointed with the reaction to the complaint.
I have been actively promoting Envato stores for eight years and have spent several hundred dollars myself on Envato products. All it took was one complaint and my account was closed.
No one had the courtesy to email me beforehand and explain that a complaint had been raised. No one gave a second thought to look at my account and see that I am a loyal member in good standing. The first thing they did was deactivate my account. That means that the support team did not even take two seconds to check if I was generating money for their company as a customer, as an affiliate, or as both.
After pleading my case, the support desk noted I had been promoting them for years and reinstated my account, but they added that if there was ever any complaint against me, they would close my account with immediate effect.
Can I Continue to Work with Envato?
Last Thursday night I participated in a video interview with Nathan Weller. In the video I spoke about how I made a point of moving away from making money through affiliate marketing in the past because of the way that companies, particularly large companies, can and will close the affiliate program at any given point.
You have next to no rights as an affiliate, despite the fact you are doing a huge amount of work in order to generate a small commission.
I have had many companies simply refuse to send payments for commissions I generated. For example, companies such as FastClick and WooThemes simply closed their affiliate program despite my referrals earning me “Lifetime Commissions” of hundreds of dollats every month. Poker companies such as FullTilt and Pokerstars simply closed high performing accounts so that they would no longer have to pay them the lifetime commissions they promised (Pokerstars did this to me earlier this year).
Even to this day, Fiverr continue to owe me several hundred dollars in affiliate commissions and refuse to respond to emails I send them about it.
Although the terms and conditions of Envato’s affiliate program are extremely poor, I must commend them on the fact that they have always paid on time. I cannot fault them in that respect.
I would love to continue to promote them because so many top WordPress products are sold in their marketplaces, but obviously this whole issue is making me a little reluctant to do so.
Can I confidently promote the products of any company whose first reaction to a complaint is to simply close down the affiliate’s account without so much as a courtesy email?
No. I cannot.
Sure, if I ever refer to a product that is listed in an Envato marketplace, I can use an affiliate link; however, moving forward I cannot actively promote Envato products with the same enthusiasm I did in the past.
Nor do I feel encouraged to purchase more items sold on Envato stores anymore.
My account was disabled and reactivated within two hours, but long term, damage has certainly been done as far as my affiliation with Envato goes. Obviously, a company of Envato’s size does not care if one affiliate or thousands of affiliate stop actively promoting them.
However, without a doubt, they do no need to take a hard look at many aspects of their customer service. This includes complaints, refunds, the withdrawal of products customers have paid for, account closures, and more.
Thanks for reading.