Free Means FREE!!!
Free trial offers should not include any charges. If asked for a credit card when calling for the free trial offer, personally, I would hang up. But, for the adventurous and/or curious among us, ask questions starting with WHY does a free trial require a credit card number?!
Unfortunately, a lot of times free trial offers lead to deceptive negative option schemes like the one conducted by AH Media Group, LLC. According to the FTC, “[t]hese companies promised ‘free’ trial offers—telling people that they would pay only for shipping and handling—but then enrolled people in a subscription plan, placing big unauthorized charges on their credit cards every month….” AH Media “primarily sold cosmetics and dietary supplements, including Amabella Allure, Adelina, Parisian Glow, and Tone Fire Garcinia, with claims that they promote younger-looking skin or weight loss.” To make the situation worse, AH Media companies “made it very difficult for consumers to cancel their subscriptions. The defendants did not allow consumers to cancel online, forcing them to call a customer service number…. The FTC also alleges that when consumers contacted their credit card companies to challenge the unauthorized charges—initiating a chargeback request—in many cases, the defendants used fraudulent versions of their websites to dispute the request.” The FTC “alleges the defendants defrauded consumers nationwide out of more than $35 million through illegal credit and debit card charges.” The FTC filed a complaint in California.
Best practice for businesses is to be transparent about their “free trial offers” (negative options), and clearly educate consumers as to the following:
1. When will the customer be charged for the product
2. How much will the customer be charged
3. How long will the customer be charged
4. How to CANCEL subscription
Of course, it is also best practice to get actual consent from the customer for the subscription. Not sure where to start, I would be happy to guide you. #substantiationequalstrust #transparencyformstrust #advertisingandmarketinglawyer #hispanicadvertisingandmarketingattorney #promotiontransparency #promotionalintegrity