Strings attached for some ‘risk free’ trials

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Some advertisements say you can try a product out for free before committing to it, but beware, some “free trials” aren’t always free and they may come with hidden fees.

Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) obtained a court order barring 29 defendants who sold Auravie, Dellure, LéOR Skincare, and Miracle Face Kit branded skincare products.

The Commission charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, and the Electronic Funds Transfer Act. The agency’s original complaint, filed in June 2015, charged seven individuals and 15 companies with selling their skincare products through false advertisements for “risk-free trials.”

The scheme worked like this: Consumers clicked on the online ads and provided a credit or debit card for shipping and handling – typically $4.95 or less — but they usually didn’t understand that by doing so, they were also agreeing to continue getting more skin care products, every month, for $97.88, the FTC said.

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In addition, the 10-day free trial period began the moment the order was placed – not when the product was received – meaning some consumers didn’t get their trial product until after the 10 days had passed or nearly passed. Consumers who tried to cancel and get their money back often were told it was too late to return the product, an FTC staff attorney told ABC News.

“These defendants tricked people into paying for skin care products and abused the credit card system to extend their scheme,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The Commission will continue to attack scams that rely on supposed ‘free trial’ offers and unauthorized credit card charges.”

The FTC also charged defendants with misrepresenting themselves as accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Before you sign up for a free trial online:

  • Check the record of any online “free trial” offer by searching the name and the word “scam” to see what other consumers are saying. The FTC attorney says this can yield quick red flags about suspicious offers.
  • Read the terms and conditions of any offer before signing up.
  • Watch for pre-checked boxes on any online offer. You might be agreeing to something you didn’t want.
  • If you have a problem, dispute it immediately with your credit card issuer (you may need to be persistent), and if you don’t get satisfaction, file a complaint at FTC.gov.

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