Forced Continuity, Responsible Marketing & Buyer Beware: Both Sides of The Accountability Fence

As if identity theft were not a large enough concern in our generation, you now have to second guess even those secure and trusted transactions every time you hand over your credit card...

Forced Continuity is a marketing strategy that is often a bit sneaky in nature, putting unsuspecting buyers on a recurring billing schedule for follow-up products or services. At least one or two billing cycles go by before the buyer realizes it was not a one-off purchase as expected, padding the merchants pocket with additional revenue.

There is nothing new about Forced Continuity. The direct sales experts have been using the model for years. I would venture to guess that you've already experienced this scenario as a buyer - or know someone that has.

That being the case, I'd love to know what your initial reaction was. A more recent (but certainly not my first) experience was with a product I purchased after seeing it on TV: the bareMinerals make-up. I rarely ever watch television but that particular night I turned on the tube, saw the commercial and thought hey, I wanna look that good! Not being much for TV or phone, I grabbed the laptop and tapped in the address and checked out the offer at their site...

I was pre-sold from the television commercial, and the offer looked simple enough. The next step is to select a shade, customize your kit (optional), and then the 4th screen informs you that you have to enroll in their "club" in order to get the deal.

Hmm (buyer pause) ...looks simple enough to cancel, I'll give it a try. Word of warning: when you catch yourself in that scenario be sure to print the page that offers the 'simple instructions' and create a reminder for yourself.

I personally didnt like the product... and later had to jump through hoops to find a way to cancel my "membership"... Unfortunately, it appears as if their Forced Continuity model is not as clear if you order over the phone. There are 3 pages of complaints found at InfomercialScam.

Where Does The Responsibility Lie?

Forced Continuity usually comes attached to an impulse buy. Its a great product, a great deal, and the buyer is pre-sold at the point of sale. That emotional response combined with a super simple order process triggers a purchase 'with blinders on'.

The sales copy and/or order confirmation are written in such a way that a quick scan doesnt catch the recurring charge notice - if its even mentioned at all.

There are regulations in place that insist those terms be made clear to the buyer. Therefore the responsiblity lies with the merchant to follow the terms & conditions outlined by the FTC. See FTC: Forced Continuity Plans.

That said, the responsibility also lies on the buyer. Be informed, know what you're buying, and take the Buyer Beware stance when placing an order. Keep in mind that the fine print is there for a reason, and that sales copy is designed to be skimmed over.

If you feel an impulse buy coming on, realize that you've most likely just been sucked into a hypnotic marketing funnel 😉

My advice: pay close attention when ordering online or over the phone, and keep an eye on your credit card and bank statements. If you do get legitimately scammed into a Forced Continuity program, report it to the FTC.

Responsible Marketing: Putting Your Reputation On The Line

Personally I love automated billing options. Particularly when it comes to my utilities, my hosting accounts, my memberships etc. Its just makes it easier to manage recurring expenses.

And as a marketer, I also love recurring income models.

But as with all marketing strategies, the customer experience and perception has to take precedence over your profit potential. Otherwise, you're putting your reputation on the line.

A couple of examples include Dan Kennedy and Joel Comm. Both are online marketers that have spent years building a positive reputation for themselves... only to later disappoint their loyal customers by using a Forced Continuity plan.

In fact, there was such an uproar in the Internet Marketing community over Joel's latest release of Adsense Secrets 4.0, that he issued an official apology and updated the sales page to offer TWO buying options. You'll see those very clearly laid out at the bottom of the new sales page.

I am one of the people who purchased the 9.95 ebook from the original sales page, completely unaware that I also subscribed to a monthly issue of The Top 1% Report at $29.95/month. It was an impulse buy, I was pre-sold, and had someone not pointed it out to me right away... I would have been quite surprised to see the charges show up on my statement.

Its very clear just how important it is maintain a relationship of trust with your target market. It goes beyond following the guidelines that are outlined by the FTC, and very obviously must take basic morals and ethics into consideration.

No amount of money is worth alienating your buyers, and especially your loyal customers. Period.

Now that all the smoke has cleared from the controversy stirred up by Joel's promotion, I am looking forward to the Top 1% subscription. Joel has obviously gone out of his way to 'make good' on the offer, and to keep his reputation intact...

But just how many points did Joel Comm lose in the process? Was his recovery strategy simply a marketing gimmick, or was it a sincere effort to right a wrong? I'd love to hear your opinion - and your current perception of Joel Comm.

Happily subscribed to Joel Comm's Top 1% Report

P.S. Stay tuned for a full review of the controversial Top 1% report. You can subscribe by email or RSS at the top right of this page to get updates from

P.P.S. If you would like to order Joel's Adsense Secrets 4.0 for only $9.95 (regularly priced at $97) without being enrolled in a monthly subscription, you can do that at the bottom of this page.

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. Danielle Chonody says

    I read Joel's sales letter pretty carefully and saw the recurring billing statement. This put me off buying the book which I would have purchased if he had not had the forced subscription as part of the deal.

  2. Joel comm says

    great piece, Lynn!

    Yes, my apology is sincere. You can read it at.


  3. Lisa Preston says

    Hi Lynn!

    I believe the initial uproar was caused by Matt Bacak's HIDDEN forced continuity, which was so far out-of-bounds, I'm surprised the sales page is still up. Sure, he made an adjustment, but it's not remotely close enough to meeting the FTC regulationss as it needs to be.

    I think if Matt hadn't been raked over the coals and discussions started all over the net about forced continuity, Joel might not have been burned as badly as he was.

    I personally believe Joel is an honest, ethical marketer who was using a time-tested strategy... he just had really bad timing for this particular sale. I saw the continuity on both the sales page and the order page, and have no doubt that Joel's intention was full disclosure, not sneakiness.

    The problem isn't forced continuity - it's HIDDEN forced continuity.

    I have a feeling, however, that after these last few days this type of marketing strategy will be a thing of the past. At the very least, it has created a very large group of wary buyers.

  4. Brian McLeod says

    I think Joel has done an outstanding job of getting out in front of this controversy and should be applauded for it.

    While it may have started out as an example of what can go wrong when embracing the forced continuity model, it has morphed into an excellent lesson in damage control, how to talk to your customers directly about things that most marketers would make excuses for or hide from.

    Consequently, my respect for Joel as a marketer has gone UP.

    And no, I'm not an affiliate - I haven't even bought the product (yet).

    Excellent and timely topic, Lynn. Gawd I love your blog!


    Brian McLeod
    LoudMac Creative, Inc.
    Miami, Florida

  5. My thoughts mirror yours, Brian - Joel has handled this well, and certainly gained my respect.

    Joel - thank you. I took your apology to be sincere, and looking back my closing statement seems to insinuate otherwise. In addition to the comments in the original post, I have received dozens of emails from readers who didnt want to post their comments publicly - and simply wanted to address that recurring concern.

    My primary goal with this post is to expand the FC discussion with a broader perspective. Particularly noting that there is nothing new about Forced Continuity, and the personal responsibility that buyers must also assume.

    Lynn Terry

  6. Lisa,

    You've pretty much echoed my sentiments on this issue. Especially:

    "The problem isn’t forced continuity - it’s HIDDEN forced continuity."

    THAT is the key issue for me, personally. Obviously I'm one of the very few that "read" the sales pages of products services I'm interested in buying. I may not read the "fine print" but I do read the sales letter so I know what I'm supposed to get so know whether I get it all or not if I order.

    In Joel's case, it looked like decent disclosure to me. Unlike Matt's totally "hidden" almost non-existent" disclosure.

    Having said that ... Would I ever actually use a "forced continuity" as a selling method? Probably not. I don't particularly like it but I generally wouldn't hold it against anyone that used it with proper disclosure.

    As an affiliate marketer, would I promote a product/services that uses it? If it is a good product, I was familar with the seller (like Joel) and it was disclosed properly, I'd certainly still consider promoting it.

    As Lynn mentioned ...

    "That said, the responsibility also lies on the buyer. Be informed, know what you’re buying, and take the Buyer Beware stance when placing an order. Keep in mind that the fine print is there for a reason, and that sales copy is designed to be skimmed over."

    Responsibility works both ways.

    Off my soapbox! heh heh

    Rick "Has His Kevlar On" Wilson 8)

    P.S. Did I just write all that?

  7. Dave Reynolds says

    My question to anyone using these sly tactics would always be "if your products so good why do you resort to these underhand ways of selling them?"

    Let's not lose sight of the phrase we're using here: "FORCED continuity". Does that sound like something that's good for building relationships with customers? Of course it doesn't.

    Forget being a marketer for a moment and look at it from the other side of the fence. How would you feel if you were a customer? I know that I won't buy from the likes of Kennedy, Comm or Bacak because of this.

    I saw Joel Comm's "standard" continuity and it stopped me from going ahead it also dragged him down in my opinion of him.

    So to answer your question Lynn, it's done immeasurable harm to Joel Comm in my eyes and I also think his response is simply a marketing gimmick. It's not the "smart" ways that someone wriggles out afterwards but their intent in the first instance in my view.

    I accept Caveat Emptor but we were clicking through on your recommendation and it would have been far better in my opinion as you had spotted what he was up to (as you say in a response to a comment on your post) if you had warned us - YOUR readers.

    Dave Reynolds

  8. Kenny Ritchie says

    There is a huge problem of time these days both online and off. We do regularly skim and process materials more quickly than we should as buyers but we are the buyers and ultimately the responsibility does lie with ourself.

    That said for a continuity programme to be successful you need a long term following so the FORCED element has no benefit for anyone.

    Sorry to hear about your horrible make up experience, but thanks for the insightful discussion of a very important topic.

    Joel Comm has responded like a gentleman, and someone aware of the long term benefits of honesty.

    Kenny Ritchie

  9. it would have been far better in my opinion as you had spotted what he was up to (as you say in a response to a comment on your post) if you had warned us - YOUR readers.

    Ahh, but I did. I sent out an email right away 🙂

  10. A good point was brought up in the other thread about accountability - and whether Joel's affiliates should be held accountable for the way his product was promoted (as a 9.95 one-off sale).

    I do take personal responsibility. And so you know, there is no commission on the recurring subscription (ie the Forced Continuity) with Joel's product release. The affiliates that promoted the product were to receive commission on the front-end sale, and also on the back-end sale if there was one. Period.

    I hope that its evident both from my DUH moment in the original thread where the FC was brought to my attention, and my follow-up emails sharing that information with my readers, that I did not intentionally skip over disclosure of the details.

    I simply missed those details myself, which is what made me realize the magnitude of the problem.

    I've certainly learned my own lesson in accountability, and I do agree that affiliates have a personal responsibility in these matters. I can say this - I'll read the fine print more carefully the next time I recommend a product 😉

  11. Web Success Diva says

    This is a great post and I'm so glad someone like you has taken it head on. Your points are valid and absolutely true!

    Maria 🙂

  12. Anna Barbosa says

    I am completely frustrated and turned off by forced continuity even when it is transparent. I would like to be able to buy a product without having to remember to cancel my forced membership. What is really insane is buying a product from a marketer, getting on the forced continuity, then buying another product from same marketer and yes, once again, automatic sign up. This has happened to me, two memberships to the same program, double the value! I can't imagine going to my local department store wanting to buy a pair of shoes and being told I can't have them unless I buy a membership to the monthly hosiery club.
    ahhh... I'm done. .....and how was your day:)

  13. LOL Anna - My day was pretty great, thanks for asking 😀 I loved your analogy about the hosiery club - good one!

    Going back to that point about accountability in regards to Affiliates for Joel Comm's latest release... I wasnt the only one on the block that skimmed & clicked & then recommended it without noticing the 'catch'. See Darren Rowse's post at: 😉

  14. I hated the forced continuity thing, and I'm glad Joel removed it. True, his apology letter might have been used for advertising, but at that point he really didn't have many options, and those who were predisposed to be cynical afterwards were going to be so. Personally, I bought the book after the apology letter, and I'm glad I did.

  15. Perfect - great feedback. Thank you Mitch!

  16. I fell prey to Joel Comm's deceptive marketing techniques and am still trying to get the subscription to the Top 1% off of my credit card.

    His apology does not seem quite credible considering the fact that he is an experienced internet marketer and KNEW what he was doing when he did it.

    I am permanently distrustful of and disgusted by ANYTHING with the name of Joel Comm connected to it and am posting to this effect in all forums that I frequent.

  17. Lynne,

    Call our offices at 970-278-0011 and we're more than happy to cancel your subscription and provide a refund. I'm sorry you feel the offer was deceptive. It wasn't. You didn't read the page. It was quite clear on both the sales page AND the order form. I could show you a bunch of marketers who offers something similar and don't reveal what they are doing I went over and above the call of duty to make things simple for those who didn't read the offer clearly. What's more, NO ONE was billed until they received a free isuse and DVD. And furthermore, we always give refunds.


  18. Thank you Joel - Lynne I hope that resolves your feelings regarding the situation.

    FYI, I just published a full review of the Top 1% report @

  19. I just received email notification of a refund and cancellation.

    Thank you.

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