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Forced Continuity, Negative Word-of-Mouth Marketing, and the FTC

There’s a reputable direct response marketing organization that has generated a firestorm of negative publicity with its forced continuity program. You can read more about the particular incident at the Copywriters Board and the Warrior Forum. Monthly billing under a forced continuity program was purportedly instituted without full disclosure of the programs existence to purchasers of the initial product that triggered the continuity program after a free trial period.

Let me disclose at the outset that I’m a big fan of the organization in question and was shocked to read about this incident.

If the accusations are true, the organization is exposing itself to legal liability through the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), states’ attorneys general bureaus of consumer protection, and even private lawsuits. Personally, I’m hoping that the prior track record of providing valuable content will dissuade anyone from instigating such proceedings.

Yet even if the organization is not held accountable by law for the alleged misconduct, there the negative word-of-mouth negative publicity serves as judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to sales. The information will not be erased from the Internet — and it will result in lost sales. That’s a shame because there’s a lot of valuable offline and online marketing information one can learn from the organization.

While forced continuity appears to be the flavor of the day for marketing because of profitability, it will probably take the FTC to come down hard on someone for deceptive trade practices before the methods of marketing such programs are cleaned up. If they decide to pick a marketer to make an example of, I just hope it isn’t the one at the center of this controversy.

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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