As an Internet lawyer, I’m on all types of e-mail lists. Here’s one of the bad ones. An Internet marketing guru who has recently fallen on hard times sent an e-mail to his list promoting Jamie Johnson’s “My Email Cash Project.” These types of promotions make me skeptical because they claim thousands are earning money online by sending e-mails to others but without owning a list. This begs the question: How do you send unsolicited commercial e-mails (spam) based on a claimed “loophole” in the law? If this loophole exists, why isn’t every major Internet marketer using it? If such a valuable loophole is secret, why would you sell it as an info product instead of using it in your own business and keeping all of the cash?
In fairness, I decided to check out the sales process for the product. Let’s take a look at a few of the key parts and you can judge for yourself whether this is a scam artist committing fraud or engaging in deceptive trade practices.
1. Headline. “Desperate, Laid-Off Mother Of 4 Reveals How She Now Puts $453 In Her Account Per-Day Sending eMails She Doesn’t Even Write!”
Let’s assume the person is really a desperate laid off mom. Does this headline pass the smell test? If you’re wondering what I mean, read on…
2. Earnings Claims. Jamie Johnson is still making income-claims in her headline and elsewhere that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) might not take kindly too based upon the new FTC Guidelines that went into effect December 1, 2009. In addition to the headline, Jamie uses claims like “The secret eMail ‘loophole’ that makes me $453 daily!” in her sales pitch. Hint: Earnings disclaimers by themselves don’t protect you from the FTC.
3. Who is Jamie Johnson? According to the fine print that you can’t easily read, she is a fictitious name. Now there is nothing generally wrong with using a pen name online (see Dave DeAngelo) if you’re not doing so for an illegal purpose. If the FTC came knocking, would Jamie Johnson be as described? Would she be a laid off mother making $453 per day? In fact, would she even be female?
4. As Seen on TV. The sales pitch uses the logos (without permission) of various television channels for credibility and then disclaims endorsement by in the fine print at the bottom of the page. What’s funny is that the list of television channels in the disclaimers don’t match half the channels whose logos are being shown without permission.
5. Testimonials. The testimonials don’t use last names (strike one). The disclaimer says the testimonial providers have been compensated for use of their testimonials (strike two). The disclaimers also give Jamie the right to use a different picture to portray the person giving the testimonial (strike three). Under these circumstances, would you believe the testimonials? Would Jamie have documentation to substantiate the claims made in the testimonials…or that the people giving them even existed? [To find out more about new FTC testimonial requirements, click here].
6. Disclaimers. The disclaimers are written in fine print in a blue font on a blue background that you can’t even begin to easily read without highlighting with your mouse. The FTC and Arizona Attorney General could have a field day with this nonsense. The disclaimers in the terms and conditions are also in fine print written in black text on a gray background. Way to go hiding obsolete legalese designed (unsuccessfully) to shield Jamie from liability. [To learn more about website disclaimers, click here].
7. Hidden Continuity. The sales pages claim that to order is a one-time charge and that there will not be rebilling. However, the fine print describes a subscription and you have to call a phone number if you want to cancel that subscription. Which is it? A single flat fee or a hidden continuity program? These issues are easy to spot for an Internet lawyer but probably deceive many readers.
You can make a decision as to what this means. Perhaps Jamie Johnson is selling the “secret” of e-mail list building and mailing to your list as an affiliate. Who knows? What is clear is that Jamie has some explaining to do…and neither the sales pitch nor the disclaimers are up to the task of describing what’s being sold.
If Jamie Johnson wants to explain by commenting here, he/she is welcome to do so.
As for the Internet marketing guru who sent the e-mails piking as an affiliate for MyEmailCashProject, has it really gotten that bad? The more I see of how you run your business today, the less impressed I am with it. You used to do the right thing by your lists. To borrow a phrase, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his own soul in the process? Although an Internet lawyer, this is friendly non-legal advice. The next time, you will be named and shamed.