If you hadn’t heard, there’s a lot of “stuff” happening online in late 2009 and early 2010 in regards to how we all sell/market online. The FTC put in regulations to stop abusive and fraudulent marketing, which can incur you up to an $11k fine per instance. Ouch. Now, just a few weeks ago, the credit card companies hammered down on people who sell “continuity” items. For example, some people’s business model was to ship you a “free” MP3 player, all you had to do was pay for shipping and handling, and then of course, in the fine print, you agree to billed $49.97 a month after that, over and over.
You can’t do that anymore. Actually, there are a ton of new rules to selling online, and marketing online. Ryan Lee put together an amazing resource I think you should check out. Here it is. Be careful out there.
Here’s some of what he writes about trial offers.
Marketing models that employ “Free-Trial”, “Deferred Billing” and/or “Shipping Only” are considered trial offers for purposes of this communication. Consumers must be receiving a tangible good or contracted service in exchange for charging of payment cards. Incentivized discount offers are acceptable when the cardholder is receiving goods or services in exchange for payment; however we will be unable to support accounts engaging in hidden or delayed charges and ‘free’ offers that are not truly free.
1. Avoid using terms in your marketing and offer presentation such as “Free”, “Risk Free” or any similar and potentially misleading phrases when consumers will be enrolled in a monthly continuity program at the end of a trial period, or will be paying a deferred charge for the trial period. The phrase “Free Trial” is prohibited unless there is truly no cost or obligation incurred by the consumer.
2. “Shipping & Handling Only” offers must be a fair and accurate shipping charge reasonable to be accrued by the merchant for providing the product.
3. Trial offers must be extended for a minimum of 10 days.
4. Trial periods should not begin until the product is shipped to the consumer