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"Free" Trial Offer? Beware of the Fine Print...

Friday, 22 September 2017 04:00

Trying something for free is tempting, and it can also be a lot of fun. It’s a win-win for consumers and the seller. Yet, trial offers can cause headaches for people who are unfamiliar with how they work. In fact, that is exactly what some retailers count on.

In recent months, calls from members to CAP COM about unrecognized VISA® charges have increased. What’s behind the uptick? Trial offers. Promoted in mainstream media, across social networks, and touted by celebrities, trial offers are big business. Common products are health supplements, anti-aging creams, and diet pills.

“Free” trial offers typically require the consumer to agree to terms and conditions, usually by checking a box near the submit button. That little checkbox can lead to difficulties later.

“The problem is that few people actually read through the terms of the agreement,” notes Shane Shoemaker, Director of Financial Crimes at CAP COM. “If they did, they would see they’re agreeing to a recurring, monthly subscription that charges their credit or debit card. We want to help members avoid these unwanted charges altogether because they often cannot be disputed.”

Trial Offer Quick Tips

To benefit from trial offers and avoid frustrating surprises, follow these simple tips.

  • What’s the deal? Familiarize yourself with all trial-offer details before signing up.
  • Card required? If a credit or debit card number is required, it’s probably not free.
  • Beware of pre-checked boxes. When you sign up, watch for checkboxes that automatically opt you in for products or services you may not want.
  • Mark your calendar. Trials typically feature an introductory period (30-day, 60-day, etc.) after which your card is charged if you don’t return the unused merchandise. If you plan to cancel, mark your calendar to discontinue the trial and avoid extra charges.
  • How to cancel. Read the terms and conditions to understand how and when to cancel.
  • Monitor your statement. If you have followed the tips above and discover an unwanted charge on your card, contact the merchant directly to resolve the issue.

Questions? For answers to other questions about good trial-offer practices, please call CAP COM Member Services at (800) 634-2340.