Beware of 'Free' Trial Offers
The Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection offers advice to a Doylestown writer with a question about free trial products.
Q. I see certain products advertised on TV, for example the skin care products, which seem to work really well. A few of them even offer a free trial so that I would not have to pay for the product if I tried it and didn’t like it.
It sounds like a great deal and it seems to me like that would be the best way to go. What do you think? SC - Doylestown
A. It sure does sound like a good deal, which is exactly what the companies want you to think.
Keep in mind that some companies use free trial offers as a way to sign you up for more products. This could end up being quite costly as they bill you every month until you cancel.
Whether it’s for wrinkle cream or acne products, teeth whitener or weight loss products, all free trials eventually end. And if you decide you don’t want to buy what you’ve tried, you must cancel or take some other action before the free trial is up.
Be careful though. Some businesses make it difficult to cancel. Some of the tricks to look out for are; a company hiding the terms and conditions of their offers in very tiny type, and, if ordering online, using a pre-checked sign up box as the default setting. Some even put conditions on returns and cancellations that could make it next to impossible for you to stop the deliveries and billing for the products.
Watch out if your “free” trial promises to come with a small shipping and handling fee. You may think that you are only paying a few dollars but what you’re really doing is giving them your credit card information which could result in much higher charges after the trial.
There are some things you can do to avoid any hidden costs involved in a free trial.
First, research the company online to see what other people may be saying about the company’s free trial offers. Look for and read carefully the terms and conditions for the offer. If you cannot find them or don’t understand exactly what you are agreeing to, don’t sign up.
Watch out for pre-checked boxes. A default checkmark may be giving the company full permission to continue the offer past the free trial or to automatically sign you up for more products that, this time, you would have to pay for.
Mark your calendar a few days before the free trial ends in order to cancel it on time. If that date passes without you telling the company to cancel, you may be on the hook for more products. Look for info on their policies and procedure for cancelling future shipments.
Finally, read your credit and debit card statements so that you will know right away if you are being charged for something you did not order.