“Look 20 years younger! Wrinkle cream free trial – $150 value!”
You have likely seen these ads while browsing the web or being social on Facebook. Have you ever tried these products or thought about trying them? It says it’s free…but is it really? Our inquiry centre has recently received calls about these online free trial products – some people asking questions and others found that they had inadvertently agreed to receive expensive products on an ongoing basis. Here are some things to look for before you consider saying yes to “free trial” products.
Before you order:
- Did the ad come up on a pop-up screen while browsing the web or on your Facebook newsfeed or sidebar? Be cautious! Many legitimate companies advertise online but before ordering anything, it’s important to know who you are doing business with and fully understand the offer.
- Check to see if other consumers have written feedback on the company. You may also want to contact a local Better Business Bureau and find out if the company has been rated.
If you decide to order:
- Get all the details of the free trial. Do they have a return policy? Do they charge for shipping and how many days would it take for the products to arrive? Will you receive and be billed for subsequent products? These should be in the terms and conditions. If it’s not stated in an obvious place, look for it! If you still can’t find it, you may want to contact the company so you can fully understand how the free trial works.
- Be aware that when you click that “I agree” button when buying online, that you are entering into a contract and accepting the contract terms and conditions so watch out for pre-checked boxes. If the site asks for your credit card information, we recommend that you don’t proceed with placing an order, even if it states that it’s only for a shipping fee.
- If you do go ahead and order, print out and keep a copy of the contract.
If your free trial has gone wrong:
- If you got charged for the “free trial” products or were sent (and charged for) additional products, call your credit card company to request a chargeback. Take a look at this blog post and learn how to request a refund from your credit card provider.
- Remember for the next time, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Are there laws around buying / selling online?
In BC, when you buy products or services online you may be entering a contract called a distance sales contract. With this type of contract, you don’t enter into the contract in person and you don’t have the opportunity to inspect the goods before purchasing. Consumer Protection BC regulates certain aspects of distance sales contracts in BC, including what’s required to be in the contract. The law in BC also requires the business to disclose certain information in a clear manner, including cancellation, return, exchange and refund policies. We have more information on online purchases on our website.
Being a savvy consumer may require a lot of knowledge these days especially when it comes to online shopping but we hope this blog post provided you with a little extra information.
Free trial traps: how to identify them and what to do if you’re stuck
Tips about free trial offers from the Federal Trade Commission (please note that the article is from the US so some may not be applicable in Canada).
4 thoughts on ““Free trials” aren’t always free”
Hi Janet — I’m sorry to hear this. It sounds like you agreed to their terms and conditions, but, that said, it still wouldn’t hurt to try contacting your credit card provider to see if you have any rights to request a chargeback. Feel free to give our Inquiry Centre a call, too, and we’d be happy to talk to you more about this situation and what options you may have. Our toll-free number is 1-888-564-9963.
So, by innocently ordering face product on line costing me $12 for shipping, has cost me, only a month and a half later, a whopping $583.40 CD.
Why? Because they say I agreed to the terms by merely ordering the ‘trial’ product, and the terms were, that after 14 days, they could charge me full price, and that I was enrolled for monthly shipments
Thank for any help you can give me.
I also fall into this “Risk free” trial scam with a company or product called ripped RX or Xplode.. I responded too try out the Xplode for a shipping charge of 3 dollars.
The box arrived i open and they was a printed form stating if the “system” (i ordered a product) help me to achieve my “goals” do nothing. wow Risk free trial? I checked my credit card than discovered they double charge me for shipping and it was US dollars and charged me $214 for the no risk free trial. The product was returned to them in early September 2016 and still waiting for my refund.
I ordered from LPM marketing on facebook. Original picture was olay and list of people who said was great and true. It was advertised as free samples just pay for shipping. Clicked and routed to page to order. Picture was different. No mentions of contract or ongoing costs or full price payment or 14 day. Received items of retinolla on Jan 26 and on 10 February received my visa statement. Two entries totaling close to 400 Only 10 days after receipt. Found I had to use a computer to get to site and found I was a member and shown I had signed up for ongoing products etc. Credit card refused charge back even though taken put early. Call to lpm just belligerent. refuse take product back for refund over 14 days, opened and used a bit. Even though not in their so called terms.