Buying and selling coupons online could violate terms

September 8, 2011 4:18:25 PM PDT
The number of people using coupons has reached an all time high. Now, a growing number of people are buying and selling coupons online, particularly on eBay.

'Paying to save' may sound strange, but buyers say it's worth spending a little bit of money to save at the checkout line. Other says it's a great way to make money. But now there is a call for big changes because of the extreme coupon craze.

Melanie is a busy mom whose bottom line depends on using coupons. She cuts some from the paper, but actually buys most of them online. Paying for coupons, she says, helps her stock her pantry and save a hundred dollars a week.

She said, "There are a lot more variety of coupons online."

Melanie also sells coupons online.

"People are willing to pay up to 75 percent of the coupon value," she said.

What Melanie didn't know is that there's a new push by consumer product manufacturers to shut down coupon sales on eBay. The Coupon Information Corporation, known as CIC, which represents businesses, just sent multiple requests to the online auction giant demanding the sale of coupons stop.

Bud Miller with the Coupon Information Corporation explained, "The best solution would be for eBay to simply prohibit the sale of manufacturers' coupons from their websites, like they do many other items."

So what's wrong with selling coupons online? Manufacturers say the reason is in the fine print right on their coupons. "Void if altered, copied, sold, purchased, transferred..."

In a statement, Kraft Foods told us, "We discourage the sale of our coupons on the Internet."

Proctor and Gamble says, "We do not permit the unauthorized distribution, collection, sale, auction, trade or assignment of its coupons for any reason."

The CIC says the coupon craze is actually causing chaos in some stores.

"We've been seeing more and more complaints about people coming in with large numbers of coupons just stripping the shelves bare," Miller said.

There's no law against selling coupons, but if you do, you could get a demand letter from the CIC asking you to stop or risk facing civil penalties. But if you sell altered, stolen or counterfeit coupons, that's against the law and people have gone to prison for it.

Miller said, "It violates the terms and conditions and you're exposing yourself to a host of issues you really don't want to."

In a statement eBay told us it's committed to preventing, detecting and combating fraud, but the company will continue to allow coupon sales.

EBay's website says it does limit the number of coupons people can sell and does not allow the sale of expired or electronic coupons, but they don't monitor the site for possible violations. Manufacturers say you can go to their websites to look for extra coupons and deals.

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