Investigation Unit: Selling and Buying Coupons

The number of people using coupons has reached an all time high and now a growing number of people are buying and selling coupons online.

It may sound strange, "paying to save", but buyers say it's worth spending a little bit of money for coupons, to save even more in the check out line.

But there's now calls for big changes in what's become an extreme coupon craze.

Melanie is a busy mom whose bottom line depends on using coupons.

She cuts some from the paper but actually buys most of them online.

Paying for coupons, she says, helps her stock her pantry and save $100 a week.

"There are a lot more variety of coupons online," said Melanie.  

Melanie also sells coupons online. 

She says it helps other families save, and makes money for her own.

Melanie said, "People are willing to pay up to 75% of the coupon value."

What Melanie didn't know is there's a new push by consumer product manufacturers to shut down coupon sales on ebay.

The "Coupon Information Corporation" which represents businesses, just sent multiple requests to the online auction giant demanding the sale of coupons stop.  

Bud Miller of the Coupon Information Corporation said, "The best solution would be for e-bay to simply prohibit the sale of manufactures coupons from their websites like they do many other items."

What's wrong with selling coupons online?

Manufacturers say look at the fine print right on their coupons that says 'void if
Altered, copied, sold, purchased, transferred.'

Kraft foods told us, "We discourage the sale of our coupons on the internet."

Proctor and Gamble said, "We do not permit the unauthorized distribution, collection, sale, auction, trade or assignment of its coupons for any reason."

We pushed retailers to tell us why it matters and the CIC said the coupon craze is actually causing chaos in some stores.

"We've been seeing more and more complaints about people coming in with large numbers of coupons just stripping the shelves bare," said Miller.

There's no law against selling coupons, but if you do, you could get a demand letter from the CIC asking you to stop or risk facing civil penalties.

If you sell altered, stolen or counterfeit coupons, it's against the law and people have gone to prison for it.

"It violates the terms and conditions and you're exposing yourself to a host of issues you really don't want to," said Miller.

In a statement e-bay told us "It's committed to preventing, detecting and combating fraud."

But e-bay will continue to allow coupon sales, and it has an active category for coupon listings so is it wrong to buy coupons? 

It's the same deal, there's no law against it, but the CIC warns it could be wasting your

If you show up with too many or questionable coupons the store may say you can't cash in.

Melanie says unless she's asked to stop, she plans to keep buying and selling online.

"This is a way they can help themselves and help other people at the same time. I think it's a positive thing," said Melaine.
E-bay's website says it does limit the number of coupons people can sell and does not allow the sale of expired or electronic coupons but they don't monitor the site for possible violations.

Manufacturers say you can go to their websites to look for extra
Coupons and deals.

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