16 CFR 425.1 - The rule.
(a) In connection with the sale, offering for sale, or distribution of goods and merchandise in or affecting commerce, as “commerce” is defined in the Federal Trade Commission Act, it is an unfair or deceptive act or practice, for a seller in connection with the use of any negative option plan to fail to comply with the following requirements:
(1) Promotional material shall clearly and conspicuously disclose the material terms of the plan, including:
(i) That aspect of the plan under which the subscriber must notify the seller, in the manner provided for by the seller, if he does not wish to purchase the selection;
(ii) Any obligation assumed by the subscriber to purchase a minimum quantity of merchandise;
(iii) The right of a contract-complete subscriber to cancel his membership at any time;
(iv) Whether billing charges will include an amount for postage and handling;
(v) A disclosure indicating that the subscriber will be provided with at least ten (10) days in which to mail any form, contained in or accompanying an announcement identifying the selection, to the seller;
(vi) A disclosure that the seller will credit the return of any selections sent to a subscriber, and guarantee to the Postal Service or the subscriber postage to return such selections to the seller when the announcement and form are not received by the subscriber in time to afford him at least ten (10) days in which to mail his form to the seller;
(vii) The frequency with which the announcements and forms will be sent to the subscriber and the maximum number of announcements and forms which will be sent to him during a 12-month period.
(2) Prior to sending any selection, the seller shall mail to its subscribers, within the time specified by paragraph (a)(3) of this section:
(i) An announcement identifying the selection;
(ii) A form, contained in or accompanying the announcement, clearly and conspicuously disclosing that the subscriber will receive the selection identified in the announcement unless he instructs the seller that he does not want the selection, designating a procedure by which the form may be used for the purpose of enabling the subscriber so to instruct the seller, and specifying either the return date or the mailing date.
(3) The seller shall mail the announcement and form either at least twenty (20) days prior to the return date or at least fifteen (15) days prior to the mailing date, or provide a mailing date at least ten (10) days after receipt by the subscriber, provided, however, that whichever system the seller chooses for mailing the announcement and form, such system must provide the subscriber with at least ten (10) days in which to mail his form.
(b) In connection with the sale or distribution of goods and merchandise in or affecting commerce, as “commerce” is defined in the Federal Trade Commission Act, it shall constitute an unfair or deceptive act or practice for a seller in connection with the use of any negative option plan to:
(1) Refuse to credit, for the full invoiced amount thereof, the return of any selection sent to a subscriber, and to guarantee to the Postal Service or the subscriber postage adequate to return such selection to the seller, when:
(i) The selection is sent to a subscriber whose form indicating that he does not want to receive the selection was received by the seller by the return date or was mailed by the subscriber by the mailing date;
(ii) Such form is received by the seller after the return date, but has been mailed by the subscriber and postmarked at least 3 days prior to the return date;
(iii) Prior to the date of shipment of such selection, the seller has received from a contract-complete subscriber, a written notice of cancellation of membership adequately identifying the subscriber; however, this provision is applicable only to the first selection sent to a canceling contract-complete subscriber after the seller has received written notice of cancellation. After the first selection shipment, all selection shipments thereafter are deemed to be unordered merchandise pursuant to section 3009 of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, as adopted by the Federal Trade Commission in its public notice, dated September 11, 1970;
(iv) The announcement and form are not received by the subscriber in time to afford him at least ten (10) days in which to mail his form.
(2) Fail to notify a subscriber known by the seller to be within any of the circumstances set forth in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) through (iv) of this section, that if the subscriber elects, the subscriber may return the selection with return postage guaranteed and receive a credit to his account.
(3) Refuse to ship within 4 weeks after receipt of an order merchandise due subscribers as introductory and bonus merchandise, unless the seller is unable to deliver the merchandise originally offered due to unanticipated circumstances beyond the seller's control and promptly makes a reasonably equivalent alternative offer. However, where the subscriber refuses to accept alternatively offered introductory merchandise, but instead insists upon termination of his membership due to the seller's failure to provide the subscriber with his originally requested introductory merchandise, or any portion thereof, the seller must comply with the subscriber's request for cancellation of membership, provided the subscriber returns to the seller any introductory merchandise which already may have been sent him.
(4) Fail to terminate promptly the membership of a properly identified contract-complete subscriber upon his written request.
(5) Ship, without the express consent of the subscriber, substituted merchandise for that ordered by the subscriber.
(c) For the purposes of this part:
(1) Negative option plan refers to a contractual plan or arrangement under which a seller periodically sends to subscribers an announcement which identifies merchandise (other than annual supplements to previously acquired merchandise) it proposes to send to subscribers to such plan, and the subscribers thereafter receive and are billed for the merchandise identified in each such announcement, unless by a date or within a time specified by the seller with respect to each such announcement the subscribers, in conformity with the provisions of such plan, instruct the seller not to send the identified merchandise.
(2) Subscriber means any person who has agreed to receive the benefits of, and assume the obligations entailed in, membership in any negative option plan and whose membership in such negative option plan has been approved and accepted by the seller.
(3) Contract-complete subscriber refers to a subscriber who has purchased the minimum quantity of merchandise required by the terms of membership in a negative option plan.
(4) Promotional material refers to an advertisement containing or accompanying any device or material which a prospective subscriber sends to the seller to request acceptance or enrollment in a negative option plan.
(5) Selection refers to the merchandise identified by a seller under any negative option plan as the merchandise which the subscriber will receive and be billed for, unless by the date, or within the period specified by the seller, the subscriber instructs the seller not to send such merchandise.
(6) Announcement refers to any material sent by a seller using a negative option plan in which the selection is identified and offered to subscribers.
(7) Form refers to any form which the subscriber returns to the seller to instruct the seller not to send the selection.
(8) Return date refers to a date specified by a seller using a negative option plan as the date by which a form must be received by the seller to prevent shipment of the selection.
(9) Mailing date refers to the time specified by a seller using a negative option plan as the time by or within which a form must be mailed by a subscriber to prevent shipment of the selection.