It’s always good to keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Like an empty subway car on a hot summer day, or the email telling you you’ve just inherited millions from a dead Nigerian king. Or an offer for a “free” trial of beauty cream that ends up actually costing you hundreds of dollars.
CBS Dallas-Fort Worth’s Consumer Justice team highlights recent reports from consumers who say they’re getting ripped off by Facebook ads promising a free one-month trial of wrinkle cream for just a few bucks, but instead, ends up costing a lot more.
One woman says she received a “free” one-month trial of cream for $4.95, and then got two more bottles in the mail the next month. Bank statements showed three monthly charges of $89.95 and $99.95, totaling up to almost $600.
“Then I knew I must’ve been put on some kind of refill thing,” she told the station, adding, “It’s big-time pickpocketing!”
Another shopper says she had a similar experience with a sample that cost $3.95, and was billed two weeks later for $99.95, overdrawing her account. She says when she called the company to complain, a representative told her that when she ordered the samples, she gave them the right to keep sending it to her.
“And I said ‘no, no I did not.’”
One of the companies offering products mentioned in the news story now has a banner at the top that sounds a bit panicky: “Due to high demand from recent media coverage we can no longer guarantee supply. As of March 06, 2017 we currently have product IN STOCK and will ship within 24 hours of purchase.”
We’ve seen this kind of move before: It’s called negative option billing, and it’s not illegal on its face. However, under the law, companies are required to “clearly and conspicuously disclose the material terms of the plan,” something that doesn’t appear to be the case here: It took us more than a few clicks on one of the company’s sites to find its terms and conditions section, where it reads:
“You will have 14 days from your original order date to see if Lueur Saine Ageless Moisturizer is right for you. If you are unhappy with the product at any time during those 14 days, you must contact us at 866.968.2247 and cancel your order to avoid being billed for the full cost of the product.”
Just last year, the Federal Trade Commission officially barred a group of marketers from using deceptive online “risk-free trials” to entice customers into buying skincare products.
Earlier in 2016, the FTC and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills accused the manufacturer of weight loss supplements of making more than $16 million off supposedly “free” trials.
If you think a company has duped you into paying more than you should for a free trial, you should file a complaint with the FTC.