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It's against the law to send a prospect an unsolicited invoice.

The law against sending invoices to people who have not asked for them seems straightforward enough, but some newsletter publishers still don't get it.

The most common breach is at the end of a forced free trial, when some publishers send an invoice instead of a continuation notice--ideally accompanied by a disclaimer such as "This is not an invoice, and you are under no obligation to pay."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to recognize that the word "forced" in FFT means just that--the prospect did not ask for the issues. *

The Newsletter on Newsletters recently received four issues in a forced free trial of from a prominent newsletter publisher. Then this week we received a yellow window envelope with only the publisher's initials in the return address and a prominent, all-caps STATEMENT ENCLOSED printed in black above the window.

Sure enough, inside was an invoice for the subscription we had "ordered." Wrong. Didn't order it. Against the law.

And on April 27, 2005, the Office of the Attorney General of Florida (Charlie Crist) cited a case file which "relates to a civil--not a criminal--investigation."

The subject of the investigation is another prominent newsletter publisher.

The AG filing stated:

"Allegation or issue being investigated:

"Deceptive printed advertisement. Complaints allege that the company is disseminating direct mail solicitations that resemble past due invoices for payments due to doctor's offices, clinics, and law offices. Possible violations of Chapter 501, Part II, and Section 817.061, Florida Statutes."

The Attorney General unit handling the case is the Economic Crimes Division in Tampa.

* One variation on the FFT does permit you to send an invoice at the conclusion of the trial, because it takes the "forced" element out of it. Some publishers mail a double postcard or telemarket their prospects to qualify them for the free trial.

The offer is, "Yes, sign me up to receive three free issues of The Newsletter on Newsletters. I understand that the first three issues are free and that I can cancel at any time."

This technique has two advantages: 1.) Considering the relatively high costs of FFTs, it weeds out unqualified prospects.

2.) Because they've agreed to subscribe (with the first three issues free), you may then send them an invoice rather than a continuation notice.

(NL/NL contributing editor Fred Goss has prepared an eight-page Special Report on FFTs, which we'll be sending to all subscribers in the next few weeks. Also see this issue's DM Notebook on FFTs.)
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Title Annotation:Promotion
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:May 9, 2005
Words:417
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