ADVISED TO BEWARE OF
ONLINE 'FREE TRIALS'
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Trading Standards Service has been receiving an increasing number of complaints from consumers who have signed up to online ‘free trials’ of beauty treatments, slimming products and health products.
Consumers receive internet offers for these products and enter their bank details to pay a small amount for postage and packing of the ‘free’ product. They later find out that a much larger amount is taken from their account without their knowledge. Some people have had up to £100 per month more taken from their bank account.
What these people didn’t realise was that, hidden within the terms and conditions of the website, they were actually agreeing to a monthly subscription contract. Sometimes they are charged for several months before they realise what has happened. Many of these contracts lock consumers into a Continuous Payment Authority, which they then have trouble cancelling.
Consumers are advised to check the small print very carefully. The terms and conditions are not clear and often only accessible via a link at the bottom of the webpage, so consumers need to take great care before entering their bank details.
Although these businesses often appear to be in the UK, they are often based overseas and use a UK address to front the illusion. There are a large number of these businesses offering a wide range of different types of products.
In addition to the potential for consumers to lose out financially, the products themselves are often of little use. The Advertising Standards Authority has recently ruled against one such product called Dead Sea Kit because of the misleading nature of the ‘free’ offer and the lack of evidence to support the claims made of the product.
Consumers who may have been a victim of one of these websites can report the matter to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06.
Councillor Jackie Cracknell, cabinet portfolio holder for community involvement and performance at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “It’s natural for people to be attracted to a free offers, but this is a costly mistake as there is little prospect of getting your money back once it has been taken from your account.
“There are many misleading internet offers and it is difficult for consumers to differentiate between the genuine and the scams. Never pass on your credit card or bank details unless you are absolutely sure that the business is trustworthy.
“If you don’t have time to read all the small print and research the internet feedback, just walk away from the offer, the usual advice applies if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”