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Q.When does the law allow me to use the words FREE or CENTS OFF in an ad?

A.As with other terms such as "new" and "guaranteed", federal advertising laws provide specific quidelines for use of the words "free," "cents off," and words of similar effect. These advertising laws have in turn been adopted and enforced not only by the FTC, but also many state and local regulatory bodies. Pursuant to these advertising laws, an advertiser should only use the word "FREE" (or words of similar effect) if:

  • The amount of the saving claimed, or the cost of the merchandise described, as "free" are actually borne by the advertiser, and not the consumer such that the free product is actually free;
  • All the terms and conditions on the free offer are clearly and prominently stated. (e.g. if a consumer must buy a product to receive the free offer, that condition must be conspicuously stated in the advertising - "buy one, get one free"); and
  • The "FREE" offer is discontinued after a reasonable period of time (generally not to exceed 6 months).

Other more detailed federal and state rules apply to coupons, and "savings promotions", and these promotions should be carefully reviewed by competent counsel.

Adhere to the federal and state advertising laws governing the use of the words free and cents off in your print advertising and online advertising.

Copyright 1999-2024 Melissa C. Marsh. All Rights Reserved. All Information on this website is subject to a Disclaimer and Use Agreement. This information is provided as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. We advise you to seek the advice of competent legal counsel to address your own specific questions, facts and circumstances.