ASA rules that "free" offers must be free as in beer

22 October 2008

An important adjudication came through the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) site today regarding advertised "free" offers. The disputed advertisement was published in the Mirror and offered a "Free USB memory stick". The main text stated "TO get your FREE USB stick, enter your details online ... and pay £1.99 for postage and packing. Or send [sic] self-addressed envelope with a cheque for £1.99 ... ". Small print stated "Applications without an SAE will not be processed".

The complaint rightly disputed this ad, arguing that the offer was not free as it was necessary to pay £1.99 postage and packaging.

The ASA ruling is interesting as they upheld the complaint argument, stating: "The ad should have included a free route, by which readers could opt to send an appropriate self-addressed envelope with stamps to the value of the cost of postage only." However, they also noted in the Action that Expansive Media and the Mirror could not run the ad again unless there was an available method to pay no more than the genuine minimum unavoidable cost of delivery. Presumably this means the consumer could be charged genuine P&P instead of sending a prepaid SAE.

For the consumer boffins out there this breached CAP Code clause 32.5 (Free offers and free trials). In a nutshell this states that free offers may have multiple routes to attain the offer that are not free but a free alternative route must exist.

[ASA Adjudication]

Thanks to antischokke for the pic

TOPICS:   Freebies

2 comments

  • Freedom B.
    [...] few rulings by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) recently that concern free promotional items incurring a cost to the consume. Stuff worth bearing in mind before you send off for your free Jigglemeister 3000 with five tokens [...]
  • Bed B.
    [...] selling practices on Bitterwallet in the past, from sales where the prices of items increase to outrageous postal charges for items marketed as free. What a wonderful world it would be if consumers had the right to sue such companies for taking the [...]

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