Posted: 3/1/2017

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The truth behind many of these claims is that you will be paying a pretty penny for poor results.

weight loss advert

Look younger in five minutes. Take this pill and lose weight while you sleep. Try this serum and reverse the signs of aging. No doubt you’ve seen and heard these claims made by countless companies. They all seem to have the secret formula to melt off pounds, turn back Mother Nature’s clock, or some other way to make you slim and beautiful. Most of these offers come with a free trial to help you get started. The truth behind many of these claims is that you will be paying a pretty penny for poor results.

“Try before you buy” may be enticing words to get you to order products that you may be undecided about. While it may seem like a cheap and easy way to test out weight loss formulas and beauty elixirs, these offers can quickly cost up to $100 a shipment and you may inadvertently be signing up for recurring shipments and charges. Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) receives calls and complaints from consumers every month who think they are accepting a free 14 or 30 day trial, just to discover untold charges. The charges may be initiated by multiple companies—making it difficult to get in touch with the right business in order to get your money back.

When you are considering a trial offer, it is important to know exactly what you are signing up for. Risk free trials are not always what they claim to be. Weight loss pills and beauty creams are sold under various brands and company names. Advertisements appear online, in pop-up ads, banners, etc. To accept the trial, you usually have to provide your name, email address or phone number, as well as a credit or debit card number to cover a small shipping fee, typically ranging from $4.95 to $14.99. There may be some fine print or a link to terms and conditions. This is where consumers need to pay close attention.

The terms and conditions can reveal that you are signing up for much more than the “risk free” trial or the low fee you see advertised with the offer. The trial often comes with strings attached, including enrolling in a subscription program where each month (or more than once a month) you will receive automatic shipments of the product and repeat charges for the shipments. Each shipment can cost upwards of almost $100 per order. Unless cancelled, that “free trial” can end up costing several hundreds of dollars. You may want to ask yourself if it’s worth the cost, especially since you don’t know if the product works.

Common complaints that come with these offers are that consumers did not know that they were agreeing to future shipments and charges, charges appear before the trial period ends, it’s frequently difficult to cancel or even contact the company and refunds are not easy to obtain. Some consumers have relayed that they wait on hold for long periods of time trying to get through to the company, or they can only reach out by sending an email or through the company’s website. Oftentimes, if they are able to reach a representative, they have problems getting a refund approved. The businesses frequently deny refunds, claiming the person did not cancel in time. Even still, those that are able to negotiate a refund sometimes have to pay cancellation fees or a fee to return the items.

So what should you do if you want to try a product but don’t want to get locked into an auto ship program? First, check out the offer thoroughly before agreeing to it or paying any money. Some helpful tips on trial offers are available in BCA’s blog, “Time is Ticking—Trial Offers 101.

You may also be able to find the item for sale from a retailer or on sites such as Amazon.com. Read reviews from consumers that have used the products first to see what experiences they have had. Or visit a health food store and ask about supplements or extracts that may help you.

If you decide to accept a trial offer, be mindful of important timeframes, including when the trial starts and how long you have to cancel if you are not satisfied or don’t wish to receive future shipments. Make sure you obtain information on the business beforehand and keep it handy in case there is a problem. You should keep records of the company name, where you saw the ad, the terms and conditions of the offer, their contact information, and how you paid them. Watch your account closely to identify any unauthorized or unfamiliar charges. Before placing an order or clicking yes to the trial, try to contact the company. This may be a good indicator of whether you will be able to reach them should you have a question or if there is a problem.  Also, check with your physician to see if any ingredients in the product may be harmful to you.

There is no cure-all pill or drink on the market. There is also no such thing as a truly free trial. So consumers should be careful when considering these types of offers and take the claims with a grain of salt.

About Business Consumer Alliance

Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.

Tags: beauty products, scams, trial offer

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