When "free" doesn't really mean free marketers have been charged with falsifying claims and deceptively misleading consumers. Marketers in the email space as well as other marketing channels have a challenge when it comes to enticing consumers and ensuring the claims made will not be misleading.
Consumers have struck back against false "free" claims from businesses. Businesses and marketers can have a way with words and can lead consumers into believing a product is "free" when that may not be the complete truth. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works to prevent businesses from practices that are unfair and deceptive to consumers.
When businesses advertise a product or service as "free" it must clarify what "free" means or face steep penalties. One example of businesses getting into issues with the word "free" is compliant consumers had with Jesse Willms and his companies. The settlement for this case was $359 million due to accusations that the Willms and his companies had falsely advertised "free" trial offers when in fact the consumers were often charged a fee. According the to compliant filed with the FTC, marketers used email in addition to other channels when advertising the trials as "free" (https://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/02/willms.shtm).
Marketers have a challenge of positioning their products and services in such a way that consumers will want to learn more or purchase. However, marketers need to careful when using the term "free" to ensure consumers know of any strings that may be attached to the offer.