It never rains but it pours!
UK regulators are in overdrive at the moment, publishing announcements, guidance notes and enforcement notices like they are going out of fashion.
Today, CAP (backed by the ASA) issued an Enforcement Notice to advertisers regarding free trial periods. It's an attempt to stamp out so called 'subscription traps', where consumers sign up to a free trial period for a product or service, but find it hard to stop the service once (or before) the need to start paying kicks in.
The ASA is expected to start enforcement in earnest from 27 April, but ahead of that CAP and the ASA have reminded advertisers of the main requirements when offering subscription services with an initial free period.
In a nutshell, ads for a “free trial” or other promotional subscription offer must communicate all significant conditions likely to affect a consumer’s decision to participate.
If significant conditions are not displayed with sufficient prominence, the ad is likely to breach the BCAP/CAP Codes.
A solitary reference to “T&Cs apply” is not sufficient; the significant conditions must be stated in the ad.
In particular, ads must make clear:
- Whether a paid subscription starts automatically (after the trial) unless cancelled
- The extent of the financial commitment if the subscription is not cancelled (during the trial), and
- Any other significant conditions: for example, costs to participate.
And advertisers must ensure that significant conditions:
- Are immediately visible, prominent and distinct from other information (pop-ups are not sufficient);
- Immediately follow the most prominent references to the trial or offer;
- Are clear and legible both in size and clarity of font
The full Enforcement Notice can be found here: Enforcement Notice on 'free trials' and other promotional subscription models - ASA | CAP