Describing a product that must be paid for as being free of charge constitutes misleading marketing, which is forbidden by the Consumer Protection Act.
A consumer product cannot be marketed as free of charge or without charge if the consumer must pay more than the necessary minimum costs of ordering, collecting or delivering the product, such as an ordinary postal fee. Any such costs must be clearly indicated in connection with the offer. If the advertiser uses the word "free" in combination offers, the overall effect of the marketing must not be misleading.
A benefit advertised as free must not dominate the advertisement at the expense of the main product. A free gift is a separate item from a main product, which can be obtained for free by buying the main product (for example, "buy one, get one free").
The marketing material must state the conditions for receiving the free gift. If a product is marketed as a free gift, the price that the consumer must pay for the main product in order to receive the free gift must be indicated in marketing. Furthermore, the price of the main product must not be increased to cover the costs of the free gift. Neither can the free gift be replaced with a product of inferior quality, for example.
- "Buy Thursday’s newspaper, get a free packet of coffee" is appropriate marketing only if the newspaper is sold for the same price without the packet of coffee on the other days of the week.
- A bottle of shampoo can be marketed as "Get 25% more for free" if the bottle contains 25 per cent more shampoo than another bottle of the same price.
The same rules apply to combination offers. For example, a vendor may market free calls for the first three months if the costs to be paid by the consumer for the whole contract period are clearly indicated and if the offer only applies to new customers while existing customers will not get the said calls free of charge.