NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A free trial of products like teeth whiteners and skin creams may sound like a great deal.
A new report from the Better Business Bureau says these offers are often scams costing Americans well over a billion dollars over the last decade, reports CBS2’s Anna Werner.
Web Extra: FTC Tips On Free Trials
Debbie Wagner decided to give it a try with a skincare cream called Dermiva. All she had to do was pay a minimal charge of around $6 to $7 dollars for shipping for a free trial.
When she got the product, it didn’t meet her expectations.
“It was like a watery cream,” said Debbie Wagner. “It was nothing that you would like to put on your face.”
It was advertised as something that improved the visible signs of aging.
A month later, Wagner says another shipment of the face cream showed up at her door, along with an eye serum from the same company,
She says she never ordered it and she’d been billed $89 for the face cream, plus about $70 dollars for the eye serum.
When she called customer service, they told her she’d signed up for four months, costing $160 each month.
She says she never saw any disclaimers or information on the web page or on the ad that said if she signed up, she would have continuing shipments. Buried in fine print she says: if she didn’t return the product in 14 days, she’d be getting monthly shipments of a product she didn’t want.
Wagner is not alone. The Better Business Bureau found complaints about “free trials” more than doubled between 2015 and 2017.
Consumers who complained lost an average of $186 dollars, and 72 percent of them were women.
“You’ve got a tremendous number of people who think there’s not much risk, that’s it’s just a buck or two to try this thing out, then they find ‘Oh my God, I’ve really been conned! It’s a trap, I can’t get out of it,’” said Steve Baker, former director for the Federal Trade Commission.
“If I could scream it from the rooftops, I’d tell people, please, please, please, don’t do free trials,” said Wagner.
The FTC and BBB have some tips on free trials: If you have to enter your credit card number, that’s a red flag. Read the fine print, and check your bank and credit card statements regularly.
The BBB says companies that give free trials rarely give refunds.