Every day, the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River Region receives calls, emails and comments from individuals who are angry that theyre getting a bill for an offer to try something for free.
If youre interested in a particular product or service, trying before you buy might seem like a no-brainer. But what starts as a free or low-price trial might end up costing you.
Whether its for a teeth whitener, vitamins or kitchen gadget, all free trials eventually end. And typically, if you dont want to buy what youve tried, you need to cancel or take some other action before the trial is up. If you dont, you may be agreeing to buy more products.
Dishonest businesses make it tough to cancel, hiding the terms and conditions of their offers in fine print, using pre-checked sign-up boxes as the default setting online and putting conditions on returns and cancellations so strict its next to impossible to stop deliveries and billing.
The free trial might come with a small shipping and handling fee. You think its a couple of dollars, but in reality, youre giving out credit card information, and possibly face much higher charges after the trial ends.
Other free offers 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 join the club, and more products will be sent and billed to you until you cancel. It could also be a subscription thats automatically renewed each year.
Follow these tips:
Research the company online. See what other people are saying about the companys free trials and its service. Check a business out at www.BBB.org. Complaints from other customers can tip you off to catches that might come with the trial.
Find the terms and conditions for the offer. That includes offers online, on TV, in the newspaper or on the radio. If you cant find them or cant understand exactly what youre agreeing to, dont sign up.
Look for whos behind the offer. Just because youre buying something online from one company doesnt mean the offer or pop-up isnt from someone else.
Watch out for checked boxes. If you sign up for a free trial online, a checkmark might give the company a 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 information on how you can cancel future shipments or services. If you dont want them, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?
Read your credit and debit card statements. That way youll know right away if youre being charged for something you didnt order.
Robb Hicken, 208-947-2115