Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Code rules 3.26 states that ads must not use the term “free trial” to describe “satisfaction or your money back” offers, or offers for which a non-refundable purchase is required.

Offers such as “Buy one, get one free” (BOGOF) should not be described as “free trials” because the product cannot be tried without buying another product, the cost of which is not refunded.

Similarly, a “money back guarantee” should not be described as a “free trial” if the customer has the right to return the product for a refund if it is found to be unsatisfactory. The promotion should be separate from customers’ satisfaction with the product or from their legal rights. In 2005, the ASA ruled that the use of "free trial" to describe a "100% satisfied or your money back guarantee" offer was misleading (HealthMail Ltd, 13 July 2005).

All significant conditions and material information should be included in any ad for a free trial. In 2015 an ad for a vegetable delivery service which offered a free trial box was upheld because the ad did not make it clear that, unless consumers cancelled within four days of receiving the free box they would be enrolled in a subscription service with a cancellation fee (Kelly’s Vegies Ltd, 16 September 2015).

This advice is designed to be read in conjunction with the Promotional marketing section of the CAP Code and the other entries in this advice section. Also, promoters might want to seek legal advice.

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