Free Trials are often not so free.

How often have you seen an advertisement on TV or attended a conference, boot camp, workshop, or seminar and you were enticed into purchasing what seemed like a really cheap product, only to discover there were strings attached?  Or you signed up for a product thinking it was a onetime only purchase and before you know it, every single month you were being charged for that item.  Or a company offers you an introductory package of free books, CDs, magazines, or movies.  Then once you sign up for that onetime package of books/movies/CDs, you are enrolled in a club or a subscription program that sends you more products and bills you, or automatically renews you, until you cancel.
These buying plans, sometimes called “continuity program”, promise you a free or deeply discounted product or service, and once you sign up, unless you cancel in accordance with their stated rules, you will forever receive the product.  So what seemed to be a great deal on a cheap or free trial product, quickly turns into a very expensive venture.  Some of these predators will even hide the terms of use, which tell you how to cancel, making it all the more difficult to get out of such a predatory deal.  Or they make returns and cancellations so restrictive that it’s almost impossible to stop the deliveries and the billing.  Another method is to say the offer is free, but charge you for shipping and handling. What that does is provide them with your credit card information, so they can charge you monthly.
The Federal Trade Commission is keenly aware of such deceptive trade practices and is working hard to protect consumers like you from these predators selling you Whiter Teeth, Flatter Stomach,  Shinier Hair, Darker hair, or something else.
So what can you do?

  1. READ the fine print.  I have said it time and again, Terms of Use are valid ad enforceable contracts, so READ and UNDERSTAND everything before you agree to its terms.
  2. RESEARCH the company online. See what others are saying about the company.  This can save you a lot of grief after the fact.
  1. BEWARE of the pre-checked box. Oftentimes a pre-checked box gives a company permission to send you more product and continually bill you.
  2. MARK your calendar. If you sign up for a free trial, mark your calendar for the day before it expires.  The company will rarely tell you when your trial is up, therefore it is up to you to pay attention.
  3. LOOK for information on How-to cancel.
    If you decide to sign up for continuous billing, ay least know how to cancel and if there are restrictions.
  4. REVIEW your credit card statements each and every month.
    If you see a charge that you did not authorize, dispute it immediately.For more information check out the FTC website.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups.

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