Tuesday, June 25, 2013

When “Free” Doesn't Mean “Free”

Recently, a mailer was sent out that advertised a FREE service valued at over $800.  A consumer called and asked how it could be free. The answer… “It wasn't.” Sometimes, consumers get so caught up in the excitement of a valuable product or service being offered at a free or reduced rate that they forget to ask this very important question. Of course, the advertisement says “free” so how could it not be, right?

Technically, businesses should not use the word at random, unless you truly mean it. There are exceptions though. Frequently in advertisements, businesses will promote something as being “free,” but then in order to get the product or service, there are accompanying fees. This practice is not uncommon and is used in various industries.

It is not acceptable to mask or to try and hide costs with small print or confusing verbiage. The BBB Code of Advertising specifically says that if a “free” offer is contingent upon another purchase, this fact must be stated “clearly and conspicuously together with the offer.” The use of an asterisk next to the word “free” referencing a footnote is not an acceptable practice.

Do you offer anything for free? How do you advertise it?

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