BBB Warns "Free" Cell Phone isn't Free

Consumers are calling Better Business Bureau® Serving West Florida about a full-page ad which appeared in the May 20, 2014 edition of Naples Daily News. They’re questioning the ad’s offer of “easy-to-use Senior Mobile cell phones free.”
May 30, 2014

Clearwater, FL - Consumers are calling Better Business Bureau® Serving West Florida about a full-page ad which appeared in the May 20, 2014 edition of Naples Daily News. They’re questioning the ad’s offer of “easy-to-use Senior Mobile cell phones free.” The advertiser is Ohio-based Universal Commerce, LLC dba Comptek, which has an F rating with BBB due to its lengthy negative advertising and complaint history. 

According to the ad, for a one-time activation fee of $97 plus shipping, Naples area residents who beat the 48-hour deadline will receive a free Senior Mobile cell phone, getting nationwide coverage with no long distance charges, no contracts, no deposits and no monthly bills. The ad also repeatedly expresses that seniors are risking their safety by not having a cell phone, and that the government urges them to carry one.

BBB of Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia became aware of the Senior Mobile product back in May 2013. Their investigation revealed, among other concerns, that the “free” offer isn’t really free and that the company inflates the costs of its activation fees to cover and profit from what’s advertised as “free.”

BBB cautions consumers that offers which seem too good to be true usually are. This “free” offer will cost consumers $97 plus shipping for access to 911 services, which are already provided by all wireless carriers for free. Also, despite having “no monthly bills,” consumers must pay for minutes once their first 250 prepaid minutes are used, or after 60 days. 

BBB offers the following tips:

  • Start with trust. Check a company’s BBB Business Review before you purchase goods or services and find BBB Accredited Business at

  • Get the details. Read and understand all terms of any offer. Ask questions if something doesn’t make sense or isn’t agreeable.

  • Question free offers. BBB Code of Advertising gives guidelines on “free” offers, including:
    • The word “free” may be used in advertising whenever the advertiser is offering an unconditional gift.
    • If receipt of the “free” merchandise or service is conditional on a purchase:  the advertiser must disclose this condition clearly and conspicuously together with the “free” offer (not by placing an asterisk or symbol next to “free” and referring to the condition(s) in a footnote)

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BBB is an unbiased non-profit 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. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles and BBB Wise Giving Reports®, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is a difference in viewpoints. For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at   Better Business Bureau Serving West Florida is one of many local, independent BBBs across North America that provide business reviews on companies within its 11 county service area.  These counties include: Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee, Desoto, Charlotte, Lee & Collier. 

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