Free Training courses – legal or illegal?

In the current economic climate there is an increasing trend where some Training and Coaching companies are claiming to give free place on training courses.

There are (fortunately) strict guidelines laid out by the government for companies using the word free and this in effect means that you cannot be charged for anything. Any materials, refreshments etc must be provided for free or not al all.

If you see any training company claiming to give you a free course and then try and charge you a fee for the training material, lunch etc please report them to Trading Standards for websites on 08454 04 05 06, if you see the adverts in print then report them to the ASA

We know that times are tough and that companies are trying to be innovative – but we must all stay legal.

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About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.


  1. I have also encountered this recently…”yes it’s free but we have to cover the costs of blah blah blah..” Yes, well it isn’t free then, is it!

    Thanks for bringing this to the fore Mike.

  2. Glenn Harris says:

    Mike, when the government can apply their own rules to their own departments then I think it is an issue.

    They don’t provide food and drink or travel for these, people still have to pay something. How far do you take it?

    Admittedly there are some that do try to hide the costs behind the free course banner and yes something should be done about that.

    But if you are up front and state the training itself (I also include my materials) is free. However, there is a cost for the food and drink as well as the room hire etc… If you break it down to;

    Training RRP £100 = Free
    Food, Drink and room hire = £15 per person

    Then I do not see anything wrong with it.

    But the Government say 1 thing and do another and I have not seen “Strict Guidelines” that they have published, a link would be good if you have one.

    • Hi Glen, I need to find my original source – but cannot on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
      what you are doing is right – what I was referring to was a “scam” some large providers are doing, claiming something is free, then expecting people to pay for materials, certificates etc when they arrive at the event.
      Transparency is all that is needed to be legal

  3. Glenn Harris says:

    I am too honest for my own good to be a scammer!

    I phoned someone who wanted to have 2 days access training, my first question was to ask them why. After a chat on the phone we solved most of his issues and he is now able to call me when he runs into the next problem.

    Yes I could have played the, you need to do this course etc… after all, he had asked for it. However, I would never feel right having done so.

    Won’t make me money rich but it sure makes me feel like a better person.

    The problem is Mike, some of the biggest companies out there use the method you have posted. It taints the rest of us.


    • Hi Glenn
      that is our challenge – give enough to add value – but not enough to lose a fee paying client.. its a difficult balance

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