Beware of “Free Trial” Offers

With an upswing in complaints and BBB Scam Tracker reports recently about deceiving free-trial offers for various health and wellness products, BBB is warning consumers about the too-good-to-be-true deals.
June 19, 2017

We’ve all seen the ads, either on social media, when browsing around the web, on radio or TV. Those enticing offers to just pay shipping for a free trial of the hottest new health supplement or beauty product. BBB has received a high volume of complaints about these offers in recent years and they don’t seem to be slowing down. A recent BBB complaint regarding a free trial offer states: “Misleading, free trial turned into over $400 in charges in just over 2 months on my credit card and receiving additional product I never even signed up for. Terrible customer service, they try to make you feel like a moron for agreeing to try their product in the first place. Then they offer to give you a 30% refund, then a 50% refund after several extended hold times I finally got an RMA# for only a portion of the product. I am sending 100% of their product back, after spending an hour and a half on the phone with both them and my credit card company on the line. Just one huge night mare, do not try this product. Side note: I never even open or tried the product because the packaging and labeling looks like something someone printed in a basement.”

This is just one example of many of how a “free trial” could end up costing you big bucks. Before you consider taking advantage of one of these offers, BBB wants to offer you the following tips:

  • Research the company online. Look for reviews and complaints at   Use the search words like “review”, “complaint” and “scam.”  See what other people are saying about the company's free trials — and its service.
  • Find the terms and conditions for the offer. That includes offers online, on TV, in the newspaper, or on the radio. If you can't find them or can't understand exactly what you're agreeing to, don't sign up.
  • Look for who's behind the offer. Just because you're buying something online from one company doesn't mean the offer or ad isn't from someone else.
  • Watch out for pre-checked boxes. If you sign up for a free trial online, look for already-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.
  • Mark your calendar. Your free trial probably has a time limit. Once it passes without you telling the company to cancel your "order," you may be on the hook for more products.
  • Look for info on how you can cancel future shipments or services. If you don't want them, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?
  • Read your credit and debit card statements. This will help you to know right away if you are being charged for something you didn't order. If you see charges you didn't agree to, contact the company directly to sort out the situation. If that doesn't work, call your credit card company to dispute the charge. Ask the credit card company to reverse the charge because you didn't actively order the additional merchandise.

Be sure to research any company prior to placing an order but if you do experience a problem with a free trial offer, try to resolve it with the seller first. If you are dissatisfied with the response, contact the Better Business Bureau ( or the Federal Trade Commission (

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Northeast Florida & The Southeast Atlantic was founded in 1987 and serves 57 counties.