Warning Over 'Free' Online Beauty Trials

25 October 2011, 06:12 | Updated: 25 October 2011, 06:17

Trading standards in Suffolk are warning us about an online scam for 'free' cosmetic trials.

Following a recent rise in complaints both locally and nationally, Suffolk Trading Standards is warning people to be extra vigilant and is offering tips on how not to get caught out.

The ‘free’ trails can range from teeth whitening strips to weight loss supplements, but the end result is always the same.

You are offered a free trial of a product, usually over the internet, and is asked to provide their credit or debit card details for the £3 - £4 postage and packaging costs.  Some customers have found that a month later, around £60 - £90 has been taken from their bank account in return for a monthly subscription of the product.

When the terms and conditions are read carefully, they state that the consumer has to cancel within 10-15 days, otherwise they’ll automatically be charged for a monthly supply of the product. In many cases the consumer needs to cancel before they’ve even received the free trial.

Often it is hard to cancel the contract as the email address and telephone number for the company are not answered. Therefore cancelling the credit card is often the only option to stop payments.

Councillor Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Protection said; “Consumers are often enticed by these offers, as they get the opportunity to try the product before they buy it. However they need to make sure they know what they’re signing up to and be wary about handing over any personal details.

“Although most of the 'free trials' claim that the consumer can cancel at any time, the reality seems to be that the cancellation process is made far too difficult.”

Trading Standards officers are advising consumers to:

  • Read the terms and conditions of ‘free’ trials in fine detail
  • Avoid signing up to any long term contracts
  • Research the company - see if there are any reviews from other consumers
  • Be wary about who you give your credit/debit card details
  • Keep an eye on the transactions in your account so you can easily spot if there is an unexpected withdrawal.

Anyone with concerns should contact Consumer Direct if they believe they may have been scammed on 08454 040506.