Ryan Lee just posted an email from his merchant account provider describing the rules they've put in place in response to the new requirements from VISA and MasterCard. (As far as I know, some of these rules are NOT mandated by VISA and MasterCard, but by his merchant account provider.)

Personally, I think most of the changes are great since they'll protect consumers from unethical business practices. But unfortunately, some legitimate practices -- or at least practices that can and probably are often used ethically -- are getting caught in the net with the outright bad ones.

Gone are the days of charging $30 shipping and handling for something that costs $8 to ship. (Yeah!) Gone are the days of saying "free, free, free! (oh, by the way, we'll charge you $20 next month)". (Yeah!) Gone are the days of saying "this offer ends in 10 minutes and you'll never see it again" if the countdown starts at 10 minutes again every time the page is reloaded. (Yeah!)

The first sentence that really surprised me was this:

Use of applications such as countdown clocks, tickers, or language such as "Offer Expires Today!" is also prohibited.

I think this only applies if the offer doesn't really end when the countdown ends, but it's difficult to be sure.

An interesting requirement is this:

The full price of products sold must be within reasonable "fair market value"

What's the "reasonable fair market value" of an eBook or DVD training course? Who's going to determine that? The value of information is, to a degree, subjective -- or at least some people are able to get more value out of the same information than others.

Next up:

Consumers must be required to validate understanding of the terms of the offer twice during order submission.

I'm not sure whether this is for continuity programs only -- I think it is...I hope so!

Reader Comment:
Lawrence Ip said:
Antone, personally I find the whole profit funnel thing a bit of a joke. Real products and services that are sold well with the right copy and presentation and support is what people want - value for money. The added value is getting more than expect...
(join the conversation below)

Terms must be displayed adjacent to the "submit", "confirm" or any other "call to action" button confirming the order. The price must be within 100 pixels of the "submit", "confirm" or any other "call to action" button. Terms must be in a minimum 12-point "easy to read" font.

Here's the one that really surprised me:

Up Sells with recurring charges are prohibited, regardless of consumer opt-in or acknowledgement of the offer.

Holy...uh, guacamole! Do my eyes deceive me? Continuity programs cannot be sold as upsells, period? Wow, that seems ridiculous.

One final interesting requirement:

Hold times to reach Customer Service must be less than 2 minutes.

Just curious, if everyone who received this email called to get clarification of a point or two, would hold time for their customer service be less than 2 minutes?