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Avoid “Free Trial” Traps

Posted in Tips
Updated November 09, 2018 8:00 PM

How often do you find yourself browsing online and an advertisement for a free trial for some product or service pops up? Do you click on it? If you do, you’re not alone! Anything free can be enticing, especially when you’re on a budget. Free trials can certainly have their advantages, but it’s extremely important to pay attention to the details so you don’t get stuck with a bill and products you don’t want.

If you’re considering a free trial, just remember, they always have an end-date. In most cases, it is up to you, the subscriber, to cancel before the trial is over. By letting the subscription run out with no action, you may unknowingly be agreeing to continue the subscription and/or buy more products. How does that happen? The answer is probably written in the Terms and Conditions.

Unfortunately, most free trials come with strings attached. Businesses offering these trials often make it extremely difficult to cancel a subscription by hiding the Terms and Conditions of their offers or by setting conditions on returns and cancellations that are nearly impossible to complete. Some companies will also use pre-checked boxes as default settings when you sign up for their product or service. If you don’t uncheck those boxes, you may have given them permission to continue providing you with that product after the trial is over, but for the full price.

How can you avoid getting caught in a free trial trap?

  • Research the company – The best way to find out if something is legitimate is to see what other people are saying about it. Read the reviews on the company and on the trial offer; you’ll want to make sure you pay attention to any complaints.
  • Find and read the Terms and Conditions completely – Make sure you understand what’s in the fine print before you sign up so you can avoid any potential surprises. If you are having trouble locating the Terms and Conditions, or if you can’t understand them, it’s best to just not sign up.
  • Watch for pre-checked boxes – Look for any pre-selected boxes before you sign up. If those boxes are selected, it could be the permission they need to charge you for items after the trial is over.
  • Mark your calendars – Find out when the trial is over and mark your calendar with the date so you know when to take action before getting charged.
  • Know the cancellation and return policy before signing up – Find out if there are any fees associated with returning items or canceling.
  • Monitor your accounts – Keep an eye on your accounts to ensure you’re not being charged for something you didn’t order.

What do you do if you’ve been charged for something you didn’t order?

If this happens to you just follow these steps:

  • Don’t panic and pay – Take a minute to assess the situation and do your research on the company, what’s happened, and what your rights are in this situation.
  • Cancel the reoccurring order/contract – Though it may not have seemed like you agreed to reoccurring orders or that you signed a contract, providing your information likely gave them permission to continue to charge you for their product or service. Contact the company and officially cancel your order. If possible, try and get proof of the cancellation for your records and for your financial institution.
  • Record all communication – Be sure to keep track of all communication with the company so you have proof of your interactions moving forward.
  • Contact your financial institution – If there is no resolution with the company, contact your financial institution right away to dispute the charge. You may want to consider talking with them about blocking all further withdrawals from this company.

We hope this information will help you navigate these offers in the future. Though free trials often come with strings attached, they are not something you have to completely avoid, as long as you know what to look for. By following these tips you can help protect yourself from getting caught in free trial traps.