We’re often asked if it’s illegal to buy coupons online. New couponers, especially, are afraid they’re going to be nabbed by the Coupon Police and hauled off to jail. I assure you no harm will come your way but, to put your mind at ease, let’s take a closer look.
Is It Illegal To Buy Coupons Online?
The Krazy Coupon Lady says, “No, it’s not illegal.”
According to The Krazy Coupon Lady, a popular couponing website, you have nothing to worry about. “It is not illegal to purchase coupons from a legitimate coupon clipping service that charges for clipping the coupons, however. Selling coupons is a violation of the “nontransferability clause” which is printed on every coupon.”
So she’s saying it’s OK for you to buy coupons online but it’s not OK for us to sell them to you. I don’t know about you, but that’s only a little reassuring, so let’s look a little further.
The Balance also says it’s not illegal
An article at The Balance, another popular couponing website, discusses the legalese printed on most coupons.
“Coupons are non-assignable and are void if transferred, bought, sold, traded, exchanged for cash, other coupons, or certificates, or auctioned, from their original recipient to any other person, firm, or group prior to store redemption, or if photocopied, reproduced, or altered in any way.”
To get around this legalese, coupon clipping services typically include a disclaimer somewhere on their site that states they are not charging for the actual coupons you order, they’re only charging for their time and shipping expenses.
According to The Balance, “There is no type of legislation that I know of that says this kind of service is illegal. However, what the Federal Trade Commission states is, “Selling or transferring coupons to a third party violates most manufacturers’ coupon redemption policies – and usually voids the coupon.”
“Therefore, selling the service or buying from the service does not appear to be illegal, but the coupons that are mailed out are void and have no value and should not be redeemed. Technically by using the coupons, some couponers are getting money for something that no longer has value.”
So, what The Balance is saying is, it’s not illegal to buy coupons or sell coupons online. However, once those coupons change hands they become invalid. That’s a little reassuring but they still make it sound like you could be spending some time behind bars if you buy coupons online.
In the very next article on The Balance they completely negate everything they just said! Take a look at this.
Is It Illegal To Trade Coupons?
In a separate article at The Balance the author states that it’s perfectly legal to trade coupons. You can also leave coupons on the shelf at the store, or pass them to friends or family members.
“Many manufacturers promote the idea of consumers sharing their coupons with friends, but it is the way that the sharing is done that the manufacturers want to keep control on. Handing coupons to friends, leaving unused or unwanted coupons at the grocery store, giving coupons as presents, or having a coupon exchange club is legal and ethical.”
In fact, the article focuses strictly on the fact that it is illegal to trade copied or duplicated coupons, Any couponer worth his or her salt already knows that.
So, Let’s Go One Step Further!
Back before coins and paper money were invented, people traded in goods. If you had a cow and you needed a new coat, you traded milk from your cow for some animal pelts. The milk acted as currency – money – that you traded for the pelts. And trading goods for goods lasted until money was invented.
Essentially, even in this age of plastic money or online money, we’re still trading goods for goods. Everyone on the planet has to either sell something or produce something and exchange it for money or more goods. So trading actual money for legitimate coupons is simply that – trading – and according to The Balance it’s perfectly legal.
Sounds Like A Good Rationalization, Right?
Of courses it does, but here’s the thing…
Manufacturers put that disclaimer on every coupon because they want to control which coupons, and how many of those coupons, are used in a particular marketing area. They think that by putting it in ‘legalese’ they will force you into submission. But if it’s OK for you to trade or give coupons to friends and family members, what if those friends or family members live in different marketing areas? What if they live in another state, or clear across the country?
The point is, everybody would like to be able to legally control a lot of things in life. The simple fact is, there are no real laws against buying or selling coupons. And if there are no laws against it, then it can’t be illegal to buy coupons online.