“Free” Sample Offers Cause BBB Complaints

October 30, 2012

Denver, CO – October 30, 2012 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to be extremely wary of pervasive online ads offering free trials and free samples. Sometimes these offers are legitimate but the BBB consistently receives complaints from consumers who thought they were signing up for a free trial, but instead are repeatedly charged amounts of $80 or more at a time.

“Free trial or sample offers that turn into something you get billed for monthly are called continuity plans and they are often advertised deceptively,” said Hope Marie Sneed, vice president of development and PR for the BBB of Denver/Boulder. “It’s very important for consumers to find out the terms and conditions before agreeing to any such offer.”

According to the BBB, complaints about the following scenario are received on a regular basis: a consumer is offered a free trial or free sample of a product. The consumer is only required to pay a small amount for shipping and handling, for which they pay for with your debit or credit card. In a matter of days, that debit or credit card is charged—not just for the shipping and handling but for the product itself—even though the consumer thought it was free.

The catch is that to avoid being billed, the consumer is required to send the “free” sample back to the company within a short window of time. Then, unless the consumer cancels, they are charged the same amount every month thereafter. The BBB says that this is an unethical practice because these terms are not clearly and conspicuously disclosed so the consumer is completely misled. Also, the timeframe is usually not long enough for the consumer to try out the product and determine if they want to keep the it or not, and therefore be charged for it.

The BBB has requested companies to add clear disclosures to its advertising, but they continue to choose to be deceptive. Many companies have stopped using these tactics on their websites, however, and instead are using methods that are much more difficult to track such as linking to unrelated third-party online surveys or even using phone solicitations.

Two companies that use Aurora and Boulder addresses are known for these practices and have F ratings with the BBB as a result. One is called Mango Pure or Pure Mango Slim and offers weight-loss dietary supplements. Another is called OrthoWhite or Convertis and offers teeth-whitening products.

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About the BBB

The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Reviews , BBB Charity Reports and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, there are 114 local, independent BBBs across the U. S. and Canada. Please visit www.denver.bbb.org for more information.