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FREE Offers Can get you BUSTED and FINED!

Linda Buquet

How often do merchants and networks - ESPECIALLY CPA networks - give you ads, banners and offers that use the word FREE? <strong>"Buy one get on FREE, FREE to the 1st 50 subscribers, FREE RINGTONES, FREE Credit Report, FREE Trial"...</strong> You may have heard about the recent crackdowns on affiliates using the word Free in Ringtone offers. Thats just one use of the word free, gone bad!

<em>Always use common sense and don?t allow yourself to be lured by the "free" word and blinded by the chance to increase your revenues and conversions. If you aren't careful those free offers could also help you attract the FTC's attention and if you do, it won't be pretty!</em>

It's <strong>YOUR</strong> responsibility to be sure the ADVERTISER'S OFFER really is FREE! If the merchant or advertiser is using the free word and the offer is not 100% free - YOU could be the one in trouble! Pleading ignorance is not an excuse the FTC accepts BTW! Mark Meckler over at the<a target="_new" href=""> iLegal blog at Digital Moses</a> provides some solid practical advice. Here's an example of an advertiser that got busted and fined $300,000. Could YOU afford to pay that fine?

<blockquote>"Just in case you?re wondering how serious the FTC is about making sure that "free" offers are truly free, here?s the summary of a case settled with Experian Consumer Direct. <strong>FTC Alleges Ads For "Free" Credit Report Violate Federal Court Order</strong>"

", doing business as Experian Consumer Direct, will pay $300,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that ads for its "free credit report" offer failed to disclose adequately that consumers who signed up would be automatically enrolled in a credit- monitoring program and charged $79.95. The FTC alleged that the failure to clearly disclose the enrollment and charges violated a previous settlement."</blockquote>
Consumerinfo previously was charged $950,000 for a similar offense. I see affiliate offers all the time for free skin care and weight-loss samples. Once you go to get the free sample they ask for a CC# and in the fine print they set you up on auto-ship. Better be careful!

Read this <a target="_new" href="">FTC guideline</a> and see exactly how strict they are about use of the word free. <a target="_new" href="">Mark writes</a>:

"It?s up to you as the affiliate to check this out. It?s not a viable excuse to the FTC to say, "I didn?t realize they were charging double for the first item to make up for the ?free? offer on the second one." Do your homework and don?t find yourself in trouble for the unscrupulous (or simply "ignorant") acts of one of your advertisers or a network to which you belong.

Be forwarned and be careful! Sell with integrity and stay safe!