You’ve joined a survey panel and it’s time to cash out your earnings. You’ve reached the minimum balance required, so you log into your account to find the spot where you request your earnings. You hit the big “Redeem Your Earnings” button, and select the reward you want. You see your account balance reduced by the number of points you’ve redeemed.
Then, you wait. And you wait. You return to the survey panel’s website to try to find some information on how long it will take to receive your reward. You look through the FAQ, in your account, on the homepage – nothing! What now?
Actually Read the Terms of Service/Conditions/Use
If this situation has ever happened to you, you’ll never be more excited to read a survey panel’s terms of service to find the answer to your question. When you first became a member of a survey panel, you agreed to the site’s TOS, though like most people, you probably didn’t read it. It, however, contains a lot of valuable information, and often includes the amount of time a survey panel is obligated to award you your incentives.
What Exactly is a TOS?
The terms of service outlines the agreement between you and the market research company. It states the obligation each party has to one another upon agreeing to work with one another (you becoming a member of their website).
Not all market research companies will have a terms of service available on their website. This does not mean that they are illegitimate, however do ensure that the company has provided detailed information on the rewards, sweepstakes, etc. that they provide, elsewhere on their website.
For example, if a survey panel has a policy that the points you earn with them expires after a year, this will be stated in the TOS.
Other things included are the minimum age required to join, if other members of your household are allowed to join, the type of information you need to provide in order to use the service, etc.
Tip! If a survey panel provides sweepstakes entries for getting disqualified from surveys, etc., ensure that you’re actually eligible to win the sweepstakes. If you signed up with a survey panel that does not provide many surveys for your area, or you live in Quebec (which has strict rules on how sweepstakes operate), the TOS may state that your area of residence is excluded from any sweepstakes.
How to Find Redemption Information in the TOS
Look through the site’s TOS for headings like “Incentive”, or “Redeeming Points”, and similar type headings, usually half way through the agreement. Here you will find the survey company’s policy regarding their rewards.
Don’t worry too much if redemption information is not posted in the TOS. As long as there is some sort of acknowledgement that participants can earn incentives, the terms under which they are awarded might not always be stated. Market research panels often use third parties to handle awarding incentives to their panelists, so processing times could be out of their hands. Even if they do handle rewards processing, processing times can vary based on the reward, so making guarantees in the TOS is not always something that’s posted.
Understand What is Required of You
There may be a heading in the TOS that says something like, “Participation Requirements”. This outlines what is required of you, as a panelist. Most of these things are pretty straightforward, such as answering surveys honestly, maintaining only one account, providing accurate contact details, etc.
It may also state however, that you are not allowed to share information about the surveys or product tests you participate in and doing so may result in termination of your account. This might not sound like something you need to worry about, but remember that with product tests especially, you are being privy to information about a new or revised product that the company who commissioned the survey would not want to share with their competitors. Making posts on blogs, forums and other websites about this information then could put your membership at risk.
Know Your Rights
If you get into a dispute with a survey company regarding something about your membership, take a look through their TOS to see if they have breached any of their own terms. If so, e-mailing or calling them to remind them of the legal obligation they have in the terms they themselves have set out, is a handy and powerful way to illicit a meaningful response.