Last summer, the BBB shared that it had been receiving a high volume of complaints about “free trial” offers in recent years – an increase that won’t be slowing down any time soon. These ads are everywhere. From social media and browsing the web to radio and TV, enticing offers promise to pay shipping if you sign up for a free trial of the hottest new supplement, beauty product kitchen gadget, etc.
The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has also issued a warning to consumers about free trials. They caution against signing up for a free trial before taking a closer look, saying that some companies will use these free trials to sign consumers up for more products – in some cases a lot of products – that end up costing a lot of money when they bill every month, until the consumer finally catches on and takes steps to cancel.
Unfortunately, many consumers do not realize that their free trial will continue. After trying the product, they do not wish to continue receiving it. However, they miss the opportunity to cancel before the trial is up and unknowingly agree to be billed for more products. Some businesses are dishonest, complicating the situation even further. They make it almost impossible to cancel. Several of their dishonest methods include:
- Hiding the terms and conditions of the offer in tiny, hard-to-find type
- Using pre-checked sign-up boxes as the default setting online
- Putting conditions on returns and cancellations that make it nearly impossible to halt deliveries on billing
Tips to Avoid Dishonest Free Trials
So, what is the secret to avoiding costs hidden in some free trials?
- Research, research, research. What do other people have to say about the company offering the free trial? Were they satisfied with their experience? If you find complaints from customers, it’s a good idea to rethink signing up.
- Locate the terms and conditions. Finding terms and conditions does not just involve online offers. If you don’t know what the TV, newspaper or radio offer entails, you should not sign up either.
- Find out who is behind the offer. Make sure you find out what company is really behind the offer. Ads – especially online – can be deceiving.
- Double check for pre-checked boxes. If you do decide to go ahead and sign up for a free trial offer, make sure you take a few extra minutes to look for already-checked boxes. Failing to uncheck them may mean that you are agreeing to the company sending you products in the future that you have to pay for.
- Set an alarm on your calendar. Be sure to set a reminder on your phone or mark it on your calendar so you don’t forget to cancel the offer after the trial period has ended.
- Check your credit and debit card statements. This ensures you know right away if the company is charging you for products you did not agree to order.
Does your company offer free trials? Not all free trial offers are dishonest, and many consumers get excited about the opportunity to try a product before purchasing it. Because of the few dishonest “free trial” offers out there, it can be hard to find providers willing to process these transactions. If you need merchant services to do so, consider a trial offer merchant account.
Author Bio: Electronic payments expert Blair Thomas co-founded eMerchantBroker.com, serving both traditional and high-risk merchants. His passions include producing music, and traveling.