SICK OF FORCED CONTINUITY? Well So's The FTC! Here's A Court Case!

Profile picture of the author jacksonlin by jacksonlin Posted: 09/23/2009
Have you ever signed up to one of those annoying internet marketing products where they say "Pay only $5.00 for the delivery fee and get XYZ insanely profitable course for FREE"...

TO ONLY FIND OUT LATER YOU'RE STUCK WITH A FORCED CONTINUITY PROGRAM?

Then it takes you FOREVER to get your cancellation - whilst in the mean time you were billed unknowingly?

Well the FTC are cracking down on it...

http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/09230...ytreecmplt.pdf

Federal Trade Commission v. Infusion Media, Inc., a corporation, also d/b/a Google Money Tree, Google Pro, Internet Income Pro, and Google Treasure Chest, West Coast Internet Media, Inc., a corporation, also d/b/a Google Money Tree, Google Pro, Internet Income Pro,




I think this serves as a warning against those irritating internet markets who don't tell you about the secret costs associated with your "FREE" purchase...

In other words...

PLEASE TELL US WHAT WE ARE PAYING FOR BEFORE YOU CHARGE US!

=]
#case #continuity #court #forced #ftc #sick

  • Profile picture of the author Jeff_Gardner
    Jeff_Gardner
    I'm personally not sick of "Forced Continuity".

    Would I be peeved if I bought something with a hidden continuity program? Probably. I might even get "irked". Then I'd cancel - or, in a worst case scenario, chargeback the purchase and wipe it clean. (Easy to do with Amex)

    However, I don't have any problem with "Forced Continuity" when the marketer makes it clear that there is a forced continuity attached. And by "clear", I don't mean in the headline. I mean somewhere in the body of the sales letter in the same font size as the offer, price, etc.

    It's a business model that works, like many others. And if done properly, a very powerful one.

    So yes... those companies that hide their continuity on separate "terms and conditions" pages... or just don't tell you at all until after you've placed your order, deserve to be scrutinized. But overall, I think the "Forced Continuity" concept - done correctly - is a thing of beauty.

    BTW, I would say the companies who don't tell their clients about the forced continuity would be in the minority, not the majority.

    Best,
    Jeff
  • Profile picture of the author Richard Tunnah
    Richard Tunnah
    I agree with Jeff. Forced continuity programs have been going on for years offline with places like gyms and movie rental places most prominent users of such. However their terms are clear in that you know unless you cancel they'll take x amount per month. That's the problem with some online forced continuity programs. They hide the fact you'll be billed monthly and make it very hard to cancel.

    Rich
  • Profile picture of the author DrewG
    DrewG
    Originally Posted by Jeff_Gardner View Post

    I'm personally not sick of "Forced Continuity".

    Would I be peeved if I bought something with a hidden continuity program? Probably. I might even get "irked". Then I'd cancel - or, in a worst case scenario, chargeback the purchase and wipe it clean. (Easy to do with Amex)

    However, I don't have any problem with "Forced Continuity" when the marketer makes it clear that there is a forced continuity attached. And by "clear", I don't mean in the headline. I mean somewhere in the body of the sales letter in the same font size as the offer, price, etc.

    It's a business model that works, like many others. And if done properly, a very powerful one.

    So yes... those companies that hide their continuity on separate "terms and conditions" pages... or just don't tell you at all until after you've placed your order, deserve to be scrutinized. But overall, I think the "Forced Continuity" concept - done correctly - is a thing of beauty.

    BTW, I would say the companies who don't tell their clients about the forced continuity would be in the minority, not the majority.

    Best,
    Jeff
    Agree 100% with this post. Continuity isn't always a bad thing (think of how many people subscribe to magazines, WoW, ProActiv, etc..), it's the shady advertisers that hide the terms or continue billing after you've cancelled.
  • Profile picture of the author TimCastleman
    TimCastleman
    Buy a cell phone lately? 2 year min with an early termination fee.

    Want to work out in a gym? 6 months, 1 year, or 2 year commitment with an early termination fee.

    Want to watch DirectTV? 2 years again with an early termination.

    Life is forced continuity, get over it.


    Tim
  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    Kay King
    Tim - It's the way it is being done that has led to complaints and investigations.

    2 years on my cell phone - yup, I have that. The saleperson at the phone store explained it clearly to me before I signed anything AND I had to initial next to the continuity statement to indicate I had read it. Same thing at the gym and I agree this method is typical for products offline where ongoing service is concerned.

    I think perhaps the "acknowledgment" is where this might lead. If you use forced continuity it may be necessary in the future for a customer to enter a code in a box on the signup page to indicate he understands what he's signing up for.

    Online some of the companies have tiny, gray fine print and though we know it's smart to read before agreeing - the nature of the internet and the "free" marketing leads to many consumers who don't know the freebie or low cost "trial" comes with long strings attached.

    Interesting question is whether google will begin cracking down heavily on use of their name - to avoid this type of brand exposure.

    I understand why forced continuity works well for some products but it's the "hidden as well as we can" forced continuity that makes the process stink.

    kay
  • Profile picture of the author John Piteo
    John Piteo
    I don't have a problem with forced continuity at all as long as it's done right. It's the GREED of unscrupulous marketers that I have a problem with. They end up ruining things for all of us.
  • Profile picture of the author arepb
    arepb
    Originally Posted by TimCastleman View Post

    Buy a cell phone lately? 2 year min with an early termination fee.

    Want to work out in a gym? 6 months, 1 year, or 2 year commitment with an early termination fee.

    Want to watch DirectTV? 2 years again with an early termination.

    Life is forced continuity, get over it.


    Tim
    Agreed with the above, but let's admit that a LOT of internet marketers play fast and loose with the terms. Maybe it's not exactly bait and switch but it's not clearly defined for most users.

    One of the best ways to combat those who don't turn off your continuity program is to use your AMEX card. You can turn off billing faster than Visa in most cases.
  • Profile picture of the author TimCastleman
    TimCastleman
    Well how do you think continuity should work? Should you have to check a box or something else, just wonder how you would want it done?

    Tim
  • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
    MichaelHiles
    Maybe the FTC can go after my mortgage company for their damn fixed continuity program.

    err... nevermind
  • Profile picture of the author garwil200
    garwil200
    I agree with all of the posts. My 2 cents is this: As a newbie to internet marketing, I have obtained some valuable information by way of Marketers giving large packages for just the shipping costs. In each case, I was clearly told upfront that I would be subscribing to a monthly newsletter, and how much it would be, nothing hidden. I had 30 days to unsubscribe, and the link was readily available, not hidden. I only took advantage of the companies, a couple times and canceled before the 30 days. All the others I stayed subscribed because they continued to provide value.

    Non of these were FORCED continuity, opting out is easy. That is the way it should be. Just like in the offline world of marketing, there will always be the bad apples, trying to make a dishonest income. So it is our responsibility to not sign up with any offer, that is hiding monthly costs, and worse yet making it very difficult to opt out.

    I am thankfull for all of the honest IM companies who are doing it right, and providing real value for us Newbies to IM. I am also thankfull I have found this Warrior Forum. It is my impression that the Warriors here are doing it right, and I feel comfortable working with other Warriors. Allen, has set it up to be self policing, so that unscrupulous people are kept out.

    Thanks to you Warriors,
    Jerry Garner
  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    BrianMcLeod
    "What we have here... is a failure to communicate...
    which is the way he WANTS it... Well... he GETS it!"
    -- (from the film Cool Hand Luke)

    Nomenclature matters.

    CONTINUITY is not evil.

    FORCED Continuity is not evil.

    HIDDEN continuity is most definitely evil.

    Let's be clear in communicating outrage if we hope to have
    any impact on changing the dynamic in the marketplace.

    It wasn't simply forced continuity that cooked their goose here...

    It was a pattern of allegedly deceptive marketing that, weighed
    together, makes a strong case for enforcement in the eyes of the
    gubment.

    Best,

    Brian
  • Profile picture of the author SamKane
    SamKane
    Originally Posted by TimCastleman View Post

    Well how do you think continuity should work? Should you have to check a box or something else, just wonder how you would want it done?

    Tim
    An "initial here" box is probably the best method. Similar to cell phone companies. It might hurt conversions... But at least it will keep you
    in business.
  • Profile picture of the author Jason_V
    Jason_V
    I'm just wondering how this is going to impact CPA networks. A lot of the stuff through them is the "You only pay shipping" then WHAM! The person gets a huge hit to their credit card the next month.
  • Profile picture of the author arepb
    arepb
    Originally Posted by SamKane View Post

    An "initial here" box is probably the best method. Similar to cell phone companies. It might hurt conversions... But at least it will keep you
    in business.
    I like that a lot. Conversions can drop if the customers you do have stay longer.
  • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
    Mike Anthony
    I think the point is being missed. When you are made aware of continuity it isn't forced. You chose to go ahead with it. If you didn't get to choose because you didn't know then its forced.

    Mortgages are not forced neither a cell phone contract. You made a choice.

    The heart of the complaint is here

    "Information that a consumer's credit card will be charged or bank account will
    be debited a monthly membership fee of $72.21 if the consumer does not cancel his website membership within seven days is not disclosed on the initial sign-up pages. on the payment information pages, on the confirmation pages, or in the confirmation e-mails"
  • Profile picture of the author garyk1968
    garyk1968
    Yep forced continuity is fine but it seems many people find it hard to cancel and that is a *major* issue, if you treat people badly you rip them off and only do it once, commonly termed a 'scam'. Make it as easy to cancel as it is to sign-up in the first and be very clear about the terms then thats fine.

    Other posters have quoted gyms and such like, they are not the same thing. With gym/satellite tv/mobile phone subs when you sign you do so at the normal monthly rate and you are clearly told what the minimum length of contract is. With FC you pay a low rate and then are automatically bumped to the standard rate after a period of time which is normally in small print on the website!
  • Profile picture of the author jasonl70
    jasonl70
    As several people here have mentioned, forced continuity is NOT the same thing as hidden continuity, nor does it mean you can not easily cancel. It simply means you have to agree to the continuity program.

    Example of forced continuity:

    - those new netbooks that you get for $199 new - but you have to sign up for the verizon 3g access to get it for that price. It is not optional - if you do not sign up for the continuity (verizon service), you cannot get the netbook discount.

    - And of course, the infamous Sports Illustrated ads (free clock, etc, if you sunscribe).

    I think it is important that people are able to differentiate the differences. In itself, there is absolutely nothing shady about forced continuity.
  • Profile picture of the author Sean Ski
    Sean Ski
    I think you're talking more about cpa forced continuity (the shady offers)... Pretty much every major IM guru has always told everyone upfront that they're using forced continuity - its the cpa programs that say get a free trial and only in the terms do they say you'll be charged 14 days after the purchase date $87 monthly (then it takes 4 days to actually reach the persons door step).

    So yeah, those programs are probably going to have to straighten up which should lower conversions and allow more skilled marketers to take advantage just like they did when the google slap first happened... It'll weed out all the half-a** marketers who start saying cpa is dead after their offers stop converting as well.
  • Profile picture of the author greff
    greff
    Just because people do it in the offline world does not make it right.

    I am wondering why people do it at all. Is it because they want to make sure you pay at least one high fee before you cancel? Is it because they are charging too much? If the product is worthy, people will continue on with the program. If it is not, then, you don't deserve the money you stole.
  • Profile picture of the author jasonl70
    jasonl70
    Originally Posted by Mike Anthony View Post

    I think the point is being missed. When you are made aware of continuity it isn't forced. You chose to go ahead with it. If you didn't get to choose because you didn't know then its forced.
    Mike, that is the source of lot of confusion. That is not what forced continuity is. That is HIDDEN continuity.

    See my post above which explains what Forced Continuity is.

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