These Guidelines apply to all media and address marketing plans where the consumer gives consent to receive and pay for goods or services in the future on a continuing or periodic basis, unless and until the consumer cancels the plan.
The following should apply to all advance consent or negative option marketing plans:
- Initial Offer:
Consent. Regardless of channel, marketers should have the consumer’s express informed consent to participate in any advance consent or negative option marketing plan before the consumer is billed or charged. For example, a pre-checked box without further action, such as clicking a response button or sending back a response to confirm individual consent is not sufficient. In telephone sales where the consumer agrees to the offer in a way other than by credit or debit card payment, the consumer consent must be written or audio recorded.
- Marketers should inform consumers in the initial offer of their right to cancel their participation in the plan and any outstanding fees that may be owed.
- Marketers should inform consumers in the initial offer of the length of any trial period, including a statement that the consumer’s account will be charged after the trial period (including the date of the charge) unless the consumer takes an affirmative step to cancel, providing the consumer a reasonable time period to cancel, and the steps needed to avoid charges.
Material Terms & Conditions. Regardless of channel, marketers should clearly and conspicuously disclose all material terms and conditions before obtaining the consumer’s billing information, including:
- A description of the goods or services being offered;
- The identity of the marketer and contact information for service or cancellation;
- The interval between shipments or services to be provided;
- The price or the range of prices of the goods or services purchased by the consumer, including whether there are any additional charges;
- Whether the consumer will be billed or automatically charged;
- When and how frequently the consumer will be billed or charged;
- Any terms with regards to a “free to keep” incentive as applicable;
- The fact that the consumer must take affirmative action to cancel in order to avoid future billing or charges;
- The specific and easy steps that consumers should follow to cancel the plan and to stop recurring charges from being placed on the consumer’s account; and
- The time period within which the consumer must cancel.
When applicable, the following terms and conditions should also be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the initial offer:
- That the current plan or renewal prices of the goods or services are subject to change;
- The length of any free, trial or approval period in time or quantity;
- The length of membership period, and the length of subsequent renewal or billing periods;
- The fact that goods or services will continue after the free period unless the consumer cancels;
- Any minimum purchase obligations; and
- The terms and conditions of any refund policy.
In instances where the marketer uses pre-acquired account information under a free-to-pay conversion plan, the marketer should:
- Obtain from the consumer the complete account number to be charged within the appropriate data security protocols (such as PCI compliance);
- Obtain affirmative consent from the consumer to charge such account; and
- Provide channel specific proof (an email or hard copy confirmation, or if via telephone, audio record the entire transaction).
In instances where the marketer uses pre-acquired account information but does not engage in a free-to-pay conversion plan, the marketer should:
- Identify with specificity the account that will be charged; and
- Obtain affirmative consent from the consumer to charge such account.
- Providing the Goods & Services to the Consumer:
- Marketers may provide products or services and bills concurrently; however, consumers should not be obligated to pay bills prior to the expiration of any trial period.
- Marketers should inform consumers in renewal reminders of their right to cancel their participation in the plan, and any outstanding fees owed.
- Marketers should provide renewal reminders at the frequency specified in the initial offer.
- Marketers should promptly honor requests for refunds due upon consumers’ cancellation of the plan.
- Marketers should allow consumers a reasonable length of time between receipt of renewal reminders and the renewal date, after which consumers can cancel the plan.
- Marketers should honor the time period they provided for a cancellation and should honor a cancellation after the expiration of the trial period.
- Internet Sales:
The initial merchant must never disclose a credit card, debit card or other financial account number or other billing information that is used to charge the customer of the initial merchant to any post-transaction third party seller for use in an Internet-based sale of any goods or services from that post-transaction third party seller.
- Post-Transaction Third-Party Sales:
No charges should apply to a consumer’s account before obtaining the consumer’s billing information as follows.
The third-party seller has first clearly and conspicuously disclosed to the purchaser a description of the goods and services being offered and all material terms of the offer including:
- The fact that the third-party seller is not affiliated with the initial merchant;
- The costs of such goods or services; and
- The consumer has provided express informed consent for the charges by providing the complete account information to be charged, providing the consumer’s name and address and a means to contact the consumer, and providing confirmation such as clicking a confirmation button or otherwise demonstrating consent to the charges.
All marketing partners or service providers should comply with these guidelines.