‘Buyer beware’: how the Federal Trade Commission redefined the word ‘free’ | OUP blog

One can hope that this applies to “Free Shipping” offers that in the small print exclude Hawaii and Alaska …or only applies to the “contiguous 48 states” wherein you enter your credit card without finding the small print that you are going to be unreasonably charged (actually gauged) in extraordinary shipping rates that exceed USPS Priority Mail flat rates. Look out Avon, Blurb, and a ton of other companies that email Free Shipping offers – but not to you Hawaii or Alaska! Now maybe when we complain – the FTC will have added some teeth to the dispute!

Alina's Blog

The FTC got off to a rocky start. In its early years, it was underfunded, hobbled by in-fighting among the commissioners, and was challenged regarding its mission to combat “unfair methods of competition.” In time, the commissioners came to view deceptive advertising as a means of unfair competition, falsely attracting customers from one’s competitors. But the courts were not always sympathetic to this idea. In 1925, the Third Circuit Court took a caveat emptor approach in the case of John C. Winston Co. v. Federal Trade Commission. The Winston Company offered consumers free encyclopedias but required buyers to pay $49.00 for “encyclopedic and research services.” The court wrote that “a very stupid person might be misled by this method of selling books, yet measured by ordinary standards of trade and by ordinary standards of the intelligence of traders, we cannot discover that it amounts to an unfair method of competition.” In order…

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