Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baby Boomers Beware of Free Trial Offers

Have you ever been the victim of a "free trial offer"? This is where a company offers you a sample of their product or service for a limited period of time.

Not long ago, I had to cancel my credit card and have another one re-issued because I became a victim of the free trial offer. I heard about a particular product on the radio targeted for baby boomer women and decided to try it out. All I had to do, they said, was give them my credt card number to cover the nominal cost of shipping and handling. I was also advised to call them within 30 days if I was no longer interested in receiving additional product. No problem, I thought.

After trying the product, I decided I wasn't interested...but guess what? I got busy---lost track of the 30-day trial period and failed to notify the company. As a result, I received more product the following month and a nice $49.95 added to my credit card. I immediately called the company to cancel and returned the product unopened. The following month I didn't receive any more product but another charge for $49.95 showed up on my credit card bill. I called the company again. I was told they had not received the product I returned to them and it takes awhile for the cancellation process to go through. My bank advised me to cancel the card.

When signing up for these trial periods, make sure you know the following information:

1) You should be aware that by accepting a free trial offer, you might be agreeing to buy additional products and services, if you do not cancel within a specified period of time.

2) Consumers don’t realize that by providing their card number, they may effectively be signing a contract allowing the merchant to automatically bill them for further merchandise and other things like shipping at the regular price after the trial period is over.

3) Reading the fine print is key to staying clear of trial offer traps. More often than not, if you’re not interested, it’s your responsibility to cancel the product or service to avoid any further charges from the merchant after the prescribed trial date.

4) If you have a problem with a trial offer, try to resolve it with the seller first. If you are dissatisfied with the response, contact the Better Business Bureau Federal Trade Commission or your local consumer protection agency.


Pam Archer said...

This happened to me, too. Except when I called the first week to cancel, nobody ever anwered the phone number given. I tried to contact by e-mail, but none was given. I had to cancel that credit card and file a complaint to my credit card company, who finally settled it with the 'free trial' people.

I don't sign up for anything anymore.

Beverly said...

Pam, I've learned my lesson too!

Anonymous said...

Yup, very similar story from me too. Like Pam, I tried contacting and no answer. I was persistent though. I called a few more times and wrote as well. I finally received an answer reply via email and the trial was canceled. What a scam!

Eileen Williams said...

These are great suggestions to avoid getting stuck with products you don't want. I've signed up for ongoing products a couple of times but they were through TV offers and one of the major distribution companies. When I phoned to cancel, there was no problem, thank goodness. But, with so many scammers out there, we really need to keep on our toes! Thanks, Bev, for your wonderful tips!

Rita said...

Thanks for sharing this information. I write for baby boomer consumers.

Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide