So, this question has been posed to me many times before “Is Buying Coupons Legal?” The wording on the coupon states that you can’t sell them, but you see them for sale on specialty sites and even larger ones such as Ebay. Since it is confusing, I wanted to know for sure, so today I emailed the CIC (Coupon Information Center) and asked them for clarification. I received the following response and was told that I could share this text on my site with all of you.
At a minimum, individuals engaged in the unauthorized sale of coupons open the door to potential civil litigation (i.e., a lawsuit) from the manufacturers whose coupons they are selling. At the worst, criminal charges may be involved in the event stolen coupons, counterfeits or an organized fraud ring is involved.
Virtually every coupon issued in the United States features a “nontransferability” clause. This clause limits the validity of the coupon to the original recipient by providing that the coupon is void if sold or otherwise transferred. The unauthorized sale of manufacturers’ coupons violates this clause. (By the way, manufacturers are free to target their discount offers in this way and the First Sale Doctrine, which is a copyright concept, has no bearing on this.)
Some coupon sellers have attempted to claim that the use of so called “legal disclaimers,” such as, “I’m selling an envelope, not the coupons themselves” provide them with legal protection as a sort of “Loophole” to allow such coupon sales. This is not the case; such disclaimers do not protect coupon sellers from potential civil liability. In fact, resorting to such an obvious ploy tends to highlight the fact that the seller realizes that the sale of the coupons themselves, which is clearly what is really going on, is improper and impermissible.
Coupon buyers should also note that retailers might refuse to accept coupons that have been obtained in a way that violates the terms on the coupon.
As previously indicated, virtually all coupons clearly state that they are void if sold, auctioned or transferred. Please take a few minutes to examine your coupons for this nontransferability clause. We believe you will see that our comments are supported by your observations.
So, what does this mean? In short, it means they state you should not purchase coupons — according to the CIC. Are you going to be arrested if you buy them – no. But you should be cautious and excerise your own judgement as to whether you should or shouldn’t do so.