BBB: Don't get trapped in a "free trial"

Posted at 8:50 AM, Apr 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-09 10:50:23-04

Better Business Bureau has a warning regarding free trial advertisements for health or beauty products. These offers often say you only need to pay shipping and handling, but BBB says that's not always the case.

BBB's Veronica Craker says last year, BBB received thousands of complaints regarding free trial offers.

"Customers are coming across an online seller of a health or beauty product who is offering a quick and easy way to sample their product. Sometimes these items appear to be endorsed by a celebrity, making it appear legitimate," Craker said, "But what ends up happening is a month after the product arrives the customer is charged the full amount of the product with either no way to get their money back or they only receive part of it back. Sometimes the seller continues to charge the customer, and the only way they can stop payment is by canceling the card they used to pay for the product."

Craker says some customers have lost thousands of dollars.

"Last year the FTC settled with one of these companies after charging them for offering 'free' and 'risk-free' trials, and then automatically enrolling consumers without their consent in auto-ship programs with additional monthly charges. They settled for $179 million, the same amount customers lost to the company in a five-year period, due to their deceptive sales tactics," Craker said.

If you are signing up for a free trial offer, BBB recommends the following:

  • Watch out for pre-checked boxes. That checkmark may give the company the green light to continue the offer past the free trial or sign you up for more products, only this time you have to pay.
  • Look for information on how you can cancel future shipments or services. Find out if there’s a limited time to cancel and what you need to do in order to properly cancel the orders.
  • Mark your calendar a few days before the free trial expires. This should give you time to cancel your order.

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