Most all manufacturers' coupons clearly state that buying and selling coupons voids the value of the coupons, so essentially there is no legitimate way to sell coupons. However, there are websites all over the Internet that seem to offer coupons for sale or up for auction.
Why Aren't Sites That Sell Coupons Stopped?
What the websites that distribute coupons promote is that they are not actually selling the coupons, but rather covering their cost for clipping, grouping, managing and mailing the coupons. They claim they are selling a service and not the actual coupons. The costs can be from under a dollar to monthly subscription rates.
There is no type of legislation that I know of that says this kind of service is illegal. What the FTC says is, "Selling or transferring coupons to a third party violates most manufacturers’ coupon redemption policies – and usually voids the coupon."
Therefore, selling the service or buying from the service does not appear to be illegal, but here is the catch:
The coupons, based on the usage policy, are void and should not be used. Technically by using the coupons you are getting money from the store on something that you know no longer has value.
Obviously not many people using the coupon-clipping services are going to not use the coupons that they get from the service and it is doubtful that anyone will know if a coupon was clipped at home or bought through an online service. But if you are concerned with what is technically right, there is your answer.
Although a manufacturing company that distributes coupons may not like online clipping services, there is most likely nothing they can do to stop the process.
What About eBay?
People selling coupons on eBay are not permitted to sell the labor it takes to auction off a coupon. Under eBay rules, the coupons themselves are the items being sold. Although eBay does not seem to patrol coupon auctions, it does ask that if a coupon has a policy stating it cannot be resold, that that coupon not be put up for auction.
They also post a warning to buyers that retailers may refuse to accept coupons that have been obtained, "in a way that violates the terms of the coupon."
What Does It All Mean?
It means that there is really no legitimate way that anyone should be auctioning most of the coupons available on eBay and by getting a coupon through sites like eBay you are going against the policies stated on the coupons which really means you are using a voided coupon.
A voided coupon has no value, yet the store is giving you back money for the coupon.
Staying Within the Coupon Usage Policies
There are an abundance of coupons that you can find that are free and do not test the terms of the manufacturers' policies. This isn't to say that I don't understand how tempting it would be to order a dozen coupons for my favorite products, but for now, I seem to find substantial savings the old-fashioned way -- clipping, printing and sharing -- for free.