Is Selling Coupons Illegal
HotCouponWorld member Jennifer T from Colorado asks the Coupon Girls a really interesting question on the selling and trading of coupons. Is it illegal or not?
Dear Coupon Girls,
I just have to ask…is it illegal to sell or trade coupons? I see wording on just about all coupons that says that it is illegal to sell or trade them. Yet folks are selling them on eBay, coupon clipping sites and even in the trade forums here at HotCouponWorld.
What’s the deal?
Jennifer T, Colorado
– – Links added by HCW 🙂
Great question and one we get asked all of the time! Lets take a look at the fine print you are talking about that can be found on most coupons. While the wording may vary from coupon to coupon most of them say something like this “Void if sold, exchanged or transferred” the key word in that fine print is the word “void”.
Notice that it does not say “illegal”. In fact, as far as my research has been able to turn up, and the research of our attorneys, have we ever been able to find any actual laws that makes it illegal to trade or sell coupons. So what that means in a nutshell is that you are not going to go to jail for trading or selling coupons.
So what does “void” mean then if it does not make it illegal you may ask? It means that if the manufacture can prove that the coupon you used at the grocery store was bought, traded, or given to you by someone else (transferred) they can choose to not pay the store for that coupon.
However, because most coupons are not identifiable to who got the coupon in the first place, it is almost impossible to track where the coupon came from and if the coupon used was sold, exchanged or transferred.
Why do the manufactures care if you sell, transfer or exchange their coupons anyways? Coupons are a form of advertising and a marketing tool and the manufactures issue certain coupons in select areas of the country so that they can increase their sales in those select areas, and quite frankly when a coupon is used in another area of the country than where the coupon was issued, it messes up their marketing numbers so they don’t like it when they put a coupon out in say California and not in Colorado but that coupon gets used in Colorado.
I understand their frustration for sure, however legally speaking as long as the coupon was used on the correct product and that product was sold there is nothing they can really do about it. There are some in the industry (the Coupon Information Center for example) who strongly discourage the sell or transfer of coupons, however it is important to note that at no point has the CIC said that it is illegal to sell or buy coupons. It is also important to note that the CIC is not a branch of the government but is a non-profit association comprised of consumer product manufacturers.
While there are out there some major underground crime rings that purchase large quantities of coupons and through their various channels send those coupons in for redemption without ever selling those products this is rare and not really applicable to the average grocery coupon user and the average coupon user is not who the CIC is going after.
It really is up to each individual person to decide if they want to trade coupons, sell their extra coupons or buy coupons. If you don’t feel comfortable with it then don’t. However as of the writing of this blog post, it is not actually illegal to do these things.
And as far as the manufactures are concerned selling or buying of coupons is in the same ballpark as if you gave your next door neighbor a coupon for cat food because she has cats and you don’t. In our opinion it really shouldn’t matter, oh sure we understand is messes up the marketing stats, but as long as someone is buying the cat food, a sale was made, a customer save a little money and all is good in the world.