Photo (cc) by Mickyboyc
Imagine signing up for a “risk free trial” of skin care products only to be charged upwards of $100 per month for the products instead of the one-time $4.95 you agreed to for shipping and handling.
That was the unfortunate situation many consumers found themselves in when signing up online for free skin care products from numerous companies that sell Auravie, Dellure, LeOR Skincare, and Miracle Face Kit products, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
It’s a good reminder that “risk free trials” are often anything but and deals that sound too good to be true often come with strings attached.
At its request, the FTC said a federal district court has shut down 15 California-based marketers for allegedly using deceptive advertising to trick consumers into providing their credit or debit card information for a one-time shipping and handling charge on a “risk free trial” offer, then charging them full price for the product and enrolling them in a recurring buying program.
“The sellers of AuraVie tricked people into paying a lot of extra money for skin care products,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “Companies need to give clear, honest information about charges. If a company advertises a ‘risk free trial,’ then that’s what it must provide.”
According to the FTC complaint, the skin care products were advertised on banner ads and pop-up ads on third-party sites like Amazon.com, Huffingtonpost.com and Lowes.com.
Consumers who fell victim to the bogus skin care trial were typically charged $97.88 “under terms hidden in fine print on the defendants’ website,” the FTC alleges. Consumers were also signed up for recurring subscription plans without their knowledge, which they found were difficult to cancel or get a refund.
The FTC also alleges that the companies misrepresented themselves as accredited with an “A-” rating with the Better Business Bureau when in fact, they were not accredited and had an “F” rating with the BBB.
According to the FTC, the companies are in violation of the FTC Act, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, and the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.
Check out the FTC’s “Free Trial Offer” information page before signing up for a supposedly free offer online.
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