A Peoria woman is learning the hard way why free trial offers are a problem. Close attention is required or your free trial can end up costing you a lot of money.
Free trials are marketed under the "negative option" business model. Once you order the free trial, if you don't cancel within the given time frame, you are most likely going to get a bill you never expected to get. The risk is real because terms and conditions are usually not clearly displayed.
"I want them to reverse those charges back and I want my money back," Mary Lou Phillips said.
The company is called Flash Whites. Phillips found a free trial offer for their teeth whitening system online. She felt it was a low risk opportunity at only $4.95 for shipping.
"I just thought, well OK, it's $4.95 so I'll try it and if I like it, I'll order the product," Phillips said.
Phillips says she didn't receive the package for over two weeks. She was about to try it when she just happened to check her bank account and found two charges from Flash Whites for $114 and $121. She says a supervisor at Flash Whites told her she had failed to cancel the free trial and was charged the full price. Phillips says she felt tricked and demanded a refund.
"They said 'no, we can't do that, we can't credit your account back,'" Phillips said.
The length of the trial is not mentioned on Flash White's homepage. You have to click on terms and conditions, way down at the bottom of the homepage, in little print, to learn that customers only have 14 days to return the product or they get billed.
"I didn't even get it for over two weeks," Phillips said.
Phillips says the company offered to refund her $93 only and when she refused they stopped returning her calls. She's learned how costly free trials can be.
"Oh wow, I can get this for $4.95, and no, it's just not true," Phillips said.
With negative option marketing, don't assume you have 30 days, in most cases you won't have that long. If the length of the trial is not explicitly stated on the homepage, always search the terms and conditions to find it before giving your credit card information. If you don't have the product within a couple of days, contact the company to cancel the free trial or ask for an extension.
Right now, Phillips is out more than $200. CBS 5 News contacted Flash Whites several times to have them explain where the company came up with the amounts charged and no one from the company responded.
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
Friday, August 22 2014 1:17 PM EDT2014-08-22 17:17:39 GMT
Portland city leaders are considering a plan to build tiny houses for homeless people to help get them off the streets. The tiny houses would be about 200 square feet and look a lot like the ones at TheMore >
The tiny houses would be about 200 square feet and look a lot like the ones at The Caravan Tiny House Hotel in northeast Portland.More >
Thursday, August 21 2014 2:55 PM EDT2014-08-21 18:55:51 GMT
Deputies have identified the man found shot and killed in a Clackamas County field earlier this month. The body of Misael "Gallo" Delgado Nunez, 45, of Aloha, was discovered on Aug. 11 off Highway 551More >
The body of a 45-year-old Aloha man was discovered off Highway 551 between Wilsonville and Aurora on Aug. 11. No suspects have been identified.More >
Friday, August 22 2014 11:35 PM EDT2014-08-23 03:35:14 GMT
The streets of Ferguson have been peaceful for another night, as protests and tensions have been subsiding in the St. Louis suburb where unrest had erupted for several nights after a white police officer fatally...More >
Conditions calmed this week in Ferguson after nights of sometimes violent unrest stemming from the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer. But a delicate and crucial question lingers: What happens...More >