As someone who is retired from teaching law at the university level, I nevertheless keep up on legal developments worldwide, inter alia, also co-authoring the world’s leading (Langenscheidt-Routledge) German-English dictionary on business, commerce and finance and also doing legal work for the European Commission.
Recently, I ran across an outfit called Linex Legal at LinexLegal.com (apparently based in the UK) which allegedly offers a free legal newsletter service. They write at their website:
“Sign up for a free account
Discover what you have been missing. Sign up now for your free account and access all the latest updates and reviews covering your area of interest.“
When I went to the registration page at the Linex Legal registration page, they – however – had the following proviso:
“If you register with a public email address (hotmail, yahoo, gmail etc), your access to Linex may be restricted.“
Hmm. Can one – as a matter of law – offer a free online service in come-on advertising, without CLEARLY and EXPRESSLY limiting that come-on accordingly, and then discriminate against certain preselected public email providers at the registration page? I doubt it.
OK. I did want to see what this service was all about – more out of curiosity than out of any expected utility – so I registered for the allegedly free service with my personal Stanford Alumni address, and got the following reply:
“Unfortunately – being a business to business tool – we can only accept registrations with an academic email address.“
I suppose from that statement that they only offer their free service to those who are actively getting paid by academic institutions and from whom some kind of a business-to-business commercial or advertising advantage at such institutions appears obtainable in the short or long term.
In other words, the “free” advertising aspect is just a come-on for commercial ends.
Now, in our view, either such law sites are offering a free or a commercial service – nothing wrong with that, as long as the service is truthfully labelled – but the “free” misleading come-on in the Linex Legal advertising is not suitable for the legal field and in our opinion, unless clearly, expressly, and openly advertised as being free for only a select group of persons, i.e. for those with active academic email addresses, it would appear to us that the Linex Legal advertising is clearly misleading and thus fraudulent as a matter of law.
The harm to persons such as myself is that I wasted a good bit of my valuable time registering for a free service which actually was not intended to be free for me – and I am quite angry about that. Time is my most valuable commodity and I do not have a mind to award it for free to outfits like Linex Legal. I have a mind to bill Linex Legal for my lost time -and that bill would be quite expensive – and rightly so.