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WHEN FREE IS NOT FREE

As a dedicated follower of the Open Source community, I absolutely love the idea of getting free stuff, but as business increasingly migrates to on-line special offers, what is becoming ever more prevalent is the flagrant abuse of the word “FREE”.

A Google search on the meaning of the word Free, apart from delivering a plethora of “free” offers, indicates how truly complex the word free actually is. With a myriad of definitions, the briefest and simplest definition that I could find is “without charge”. So, why do people say something is free when in fact it is not ?

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
The perceived wisdom is that if it appears too good to be true it probably is too good to be true. Some businesses have decided to use the word free when constructing special offers on-line, to attract visitors to their site in the hope that some of those visitors will decide well ok, maybe it’s not completely free, by sure €5 per month is almost as good as free. Some will argue that there is absolutely nothing wrong with finding a mug who is prepared to pay for a free offer but that does not make it correct and right.

Imagine for a moment if you tried that trick in your off-line business. Let’s say, you put a sign in your shop window saying “Free Newspapers today” but when you have attracted the customer into your store you tell them that in fact the “free” newspaper comes with a Latte costing €4. You can imagine the furore, but in this scenario the customer has recourse to rigid regulation on the misuse of advertising standards, apart from the fact that they are dealing face to face with the vendor and can gain satisfaction through persuasive interaction.

Buyer beware because your government is not capable of adequately policing the abuse of advertising standards on the internet. The ultimate solution can only be when the carriers are made responsible for the accuracy of on-line advertising and when the use of the word free is banned in all advertising scenarios except in cases where the offer is truly “without charge”.

Post by Ger McInerney, www.pplrecruitment.com

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