Being a smart consumer in a world with so many products and services can be somewhat taxing. With so many options available, it is easy to get overwhelmed with major purchase decisions; from the initial research, visiting stores to look at actual products, and then deciding which item to purchase, there are a lot of factors to consider. The problem is even more exasperated with internet shopping.
Here are the main reasons Consumers should beware of Free-Trial or Risk-Free Offers
Release of Your Personal Information.
At the very least, in order to register for most offers, you need to give out your email address. While this may seem harmless enough, sharing your email can open you up to new hassles. For one, your inbox will be bombarded with junk mail you don’t want. Second, if the company sells its customer lists to other companies, the number of spam emails you get will increase exponentially. Third, most offers will also require that you submit your credit card number, which raises the risk of identity theft and being enrolled in some kind of membership with recurring charges.
Remembering to Cancel.
In most cases, it is your responsibility to cancel the service by the end of the free trial. The seller has no incentive to remind you. After all, companies make money when people forget to cancel and you might not even notice until you see an unusual charge on your credit card bill. If you’re not in the habit of checking the statement for your credit card or debit card on a monthly basis, the cost to you could be even higher.
Difficult Cancellation Process.
Worse yet, it is much more difficult to cancel a free-trial than to start one. Although you sign up online, you might have to cancel over the phone or in writing. These calls can take forever. Remember, the companies don’t want you to cancel the offer. They have absolutely no motivation to make the cancellation process easy or convenient. In some instances, the company may even “confirm” that you have canceled yet continue to charge your credit card.
Now, here are some tips regarding free-trial and risk-free offers to avoid the costs associated with them:
Research the company online.
See what other people are saying about the company’s free trials — and its service. Complaints from other customers can tip you off to “catches” that might come with the trial.
Find the terms and conditions for the offer.
This 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.
In the end, a deal that sounds too good to be true, usually is! Be wary of free-trial and risk-free offers and consult an attorney with experience in consumer actions if you have been a victim of such scams.