By Philip Rebentisch

To the uninformed advertiser, free can be costly. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) has revoked the accreditation of Minnesota-based MyPillow, Inc. lowering its rating to an F primarily due to its Buy One Get One (BOGO) advertising campaign. It’s a reminder that advertisers must exercise caution when making “free” claims as laws, regulations, and BBB member guidelines affect these and other claims made in advertising.

Consumer Confusion is Never a Good Thing

According to the BBB, consumer complaints alleged confusion regarding the BOGO pricing of MyPillow® products and proper disclosures were not made for the different pillow styles offered in retail stores and online. The premium pillows that included the free pillow offer were supposed to be available only in targeted markets via online orders, and the standard pillows were only offered in retail stores. However, if out of market consumers obtained a special promotional code online (via a simple search) or called MyPillow to order the premium pillow they received the second pillow for free.

Free is Not Forever

In addition to consumer confusion over the products, distribution, and offers, the BOGO offer was not tied to a limited timeframe. This violated the BBB’s Code of Advertising section 14.2 that requires temporary free offers. Otherwise, consumers may view it as a continuous combination offer, no part of which is free. Advertisers should be aware that continuous BOGO or other free offers violate the BBB Code, Federal Trade Commission regulations, and possibly other state laws and regulations.

Check Your Media Plan

The BOGO offer was not temporary so there was no limited free element and as a result, the price paid was for two pillows. Advertisers need to know that a product or service must not be advertised with a free offer in a trade area for more than 6 months in any 12-month period. If an offer comes to an end, at least 30 days must elapse before another such offer is promoted in the same trade area. Finally, a free offer should not be promoted more than 3 times in a 12-month period.

Legal disclaimer:  This article is not intended to constitute legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.  We trust you knew this anyway.