BBB Warns: "Free Trial Offers" Not Free According to Consumers

May 22, 2014

Consumers are finding numerous “Free Trial Offers” online, as “Pop-Ups” on websites, on social media sites, television and newspaper/magazine ads. The products can be anything from cosmetics, shoes, vitamins, weight loss supplements to kitchen gadgets. According to consumer what starts as a free offer has ended up costing them money. Many of these so called free offers come with hidden time limits or fees.

Consumers have told us that they have provided a credit card number to pay for shipping and handling charges only. They were never advised that they would be charged a large monthly sum to receive the product or other similar products that they do not want or need.

If you are interested in a free trial offer, BBB advises the following:

Know the company you are dealing with. Consumers have advised that they don’t know where the company is located, do not have a telephone number and sometimes do not have an actual company name just a product name.

Research the company online. Check with BBB for a Business Review on the company. Check online to see what other people are saying about the company’s free trial. Complaints from other consumers can raise some red flags about the company, product or service.

Know what the terms and conditions are for the offer. Always take the time to read the fine print. If the company does not post what the terms and conditions are in its ads, or on its website then this should be a red flag to not sign up.

Look for who’s behind the offer. Just because you are on a website doesn’t mean that the “pop-up” is for that company.

Watch out for pre-checked boxes. Take the time to look for already checked boxes. That checkmark may give the company the go ahead to continue the offer past the free trial or sign you up for more products that you have to pay for.

Mark your calendar. Most free trial offers have a time limit. Once it passes without you telling the company to cancel your order, you may be on the hook for more products.

Read you credit and debit card statements. That way you will know if you have been charged for something that you didn’t order. If you have been charged, contact the company immediately to sort it out. If this does not work then contact your credit card company to dispute the charges.