What’s the Deal With “Free?”

Consumers love things that are free and marketers love to “give” “free” stuff away to get customers to buy their stuff.  I review offers for clients all the time and a common question is when is “free” really “free” and when “free” be legally used in an offer.

Here is some “free” guidance.

There is actually an FTC Guide Concerning Use Of The Word “Free”
 and it provides a practical and easy to understand answer:

When making “Free” or similar offers all the terms, conditions and obligations upon which receipt and retention of the “Free” item are contingent should be set forth clearly and conspicuously at the outset of the offer so as to leave no reasonable probability that the terms of the offer might be misunderstood. Stated differently, all of the terms, conditions and obligations should appear in close conjunction with the offer of “Free” merchandise or service. For example, disclosure of the terms of the offer set forth in a footnote of an advertisement to which reference is made by an asterisk or other symbol placed next to the offer, is not regarded as making disclosure at the outset. However, mere notice of the existence of a “Free” offer on the main display panel of a label or package is not precluded provided that (1) the notice does not constitute an offer or identify the item being offered “Free”, (2) the notice informs the customer of the location, elsewhere on the package or label, where the disclosures required by this section may be found, (3) no purchase or other such material affirmative act is required in order to discover the terms and conditions of the offer, and (4) the notice and the offer are not otherwise deceptive.



by Peter Hoppenfeld