Royce Shook

2 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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It is "free" or so you thought

Have you ever been tempted to try a new product or service on a “free trial” The nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to know that some companies use free trials to sign you up for more products – sometimes lots of products – which can cost you lots of money as they bill you every month until you cancel.

Or, the “free trial” might come with a tiny shipping and handling charge. You think you’re only spending a few dollars, but you’re really giving up your credit card information, ending in much higher charges after the trial.

Other “free” plans enroll you in clubs or subscriptions. For example, a company might offer you an introductory package of free books, CDs, magazines or movies. If you sign up, you may be agreeing to enroll in a club that will send you more products and bill you until you cancel, or to a subscription that’s automatically renewed each year.

So how can you avoid the costs that might be hiding in free trials?

Research the company online. See what other people are saying about the company’s free trials – and its service.

Find the terms and conditions for the offer. That includes offers online, on TV, in the newspaper, or on the radio. If you can’t find them or can’t understand exactly what you’re agreeing to, don’t sign up.

Look for who’s behind the offer. Just because you’re buying something online from one company doesn’t mean the offer or pop-up isn’t from someone else.

Watch out for pre-checked boxes. If you sign up for a free trial online, look for already-checked boxes. That checkmark may give the company the green light to continue the offer past the free trial or sign you up for more products – only this time you have to pay.

Mark your calendar. Your free trial probably has a time limit. Once it passes without you telling the company to cancel your ‘order,” you may be on the hook for more products.

Look for info on how you can cancel future shipments or services. If you don’t want them, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?

Read your credit and debit card statements. That way you’ll know right away if you’re being charged for something you didn’t order.

If you see charges you didn’t agree to, contact the company directly to sort out the situation. If that doesn’t work, call your credit card company to dispute the charge. Ask the credit card company to reverse the charge because you didn’t actively order the additional merchandise.

Where to complain

If you’ve been wrongly charged for a free trial offer, report it to the FTC, your local or state consumer protection agency, and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.


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