On occasion, affiliates claim that a product can be tried for “free” in circumstances where it transpires that if the customer does not cancel their subscription within a certain time frame they will be charged on an on-going basis.
What is wrong with these types of free-trials?
By law, claims must not be made that a product is “free”, “gratis”, “without charge” or similar if the consumer has to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding and collecting or paying for delivery of the item.
If a free claim is made, it must be clear the extent of the commitment the consumer must make to take advantage of a “free” offer.
What does this mean?
If a claim is made that tells or implies to consumers that they can take advantage of a free trial it is likely that the consumer will interpret this to mean that if they take action they will sign up to receive a trial sample of a product for which they will not be charged.
If, in reality, by signing up for the free trial, if the consumer does not cancel and return the product they will incur charges, this is likely to be considered to be misleading.
This is likely to be considered misleading because the fact that the consumer will incur charges in certain situations is information which is likely to influence their decisions and understanding about the promotion.As affiliates will know, it is an offence not to present such information to consumers.(See “The Sin of Omission” affiliate update)
It is not sufficient to only include such material information in a pop up box linked to small text. Indeed,for these trials to potentially be considered acceptable,all references to the “trial” would immediately have to be followed by qualifying text which makes it clear that charges would be incurred if consumers do not cancel within the applicable timeframe.
What should you do now?
Review your website and make sure that where claims are made in relation to “free”trials,that the trials really“free”. If they are not, either remove these claims or ensure that the relevant “material information” appears alongside.
Remember, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONTENT ON YOUR WEBSITE.
If you have questions you can speak directly to our compliance officer here.
Do you believe that an affiliate is acting unethically? Complete the Unethical Advertising Claims form and MoreNiche will investigate.