Beware of the free trial offer the next time you’re shopping for beauty products.  There are countless beauty products on the market and they are all competing to win your money.  Some beauty product companies attract customers by offering to let you try their product for free.  But use caution because you always get what you pay for. 

Companies will use many unethical tacticsto motivate customers.  The so-called free trials are often involve a complicated cancellation process.  Free trial offers use shipping and handling fees as a way to secure your credit card information and charge you hidden fees.

 

Manufacturers are not required to perform clinical trials on beauty and health products.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does very little to control in this arena.  In many cases, claims are made about products that are backed by little or no scientific evidence.  Some companies even go as far as to use phony celebrity endorsements.  Last year, both Oprah Winfreyand Dr. Oz, sued more than fifty online vendors for falsely using their names and images to promote a product.

 The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises these precautions to avoid free trial offer scams:

  • Research the company online.  See what people are saying about the company’s free trial offer.  Check with your local Better Business Bureau and the state attorney general’s office to ensure there are no complaints on record.
  • Find the terms and conditions for the offer.  Don’t sign up if you can’t find them or can’t understand exactly what you’re agreeing to.
  • Look for who’s behind the offer.  Just because you’re buying something online from one company doesn’t mean the offer is not from another company.
  • Watch out for pre-checked boxes.  If you sign up for a free trial online, look for pre-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 that you will be charged for.
  • 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 te 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’ve been wrongly charged for a free trial offer, report it to the FTC.  You can also file a complaint with your local consumer protection agency.


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