Breaking: FTC Files Lawsuit Against Companies Selling Fraudulent Autoship Programs Online
If you’ve ever looked up skin creams online, then you may have encountered free trial autoship programs. Earlier today, the FTC filed a lawsuit against the companies selling these autoship programs online, permanently barring them from using deceptive marketing and business practices.
Many of the marketers are based in California. The lawsuit specifically targets 29 marketers who sold Auravie, Dellure, LeOr Skincare, and Miracle Face Kit products online. These marketers are being ordered to surrender “virtually all of their assets to the FTC”, a total of over $2.7 million USD.
How These Autoship Programs Work
The FTC’s complaint also describes in detail how these marketing companies worked. Specifically, customers were offered a $4.95 “risk free trial”. Customers would enter their credit card information to pay that $4.95 fee. They would also automatically agree to the terms and conditions. Unfortunately, hidden in the fine print of the terms and conditions were additional payment requirements, often totaling $100 USD per month in additional fees.
This sent consumers into credit card trouble: many of them didn’t realize they were being automatically charged until weeks later. Making matters worse is that the fees would start just 10 days after the customer ordered the product – which would sometimes only be 2 to 3 days after the customer had initially received the product in the mail (if they had received it at all).
Customers who tried to cancel or return the product were often told it was too late, which meant there was no way to avoid the high fees and charges.
Even in situations where customers were allowed to refund the money, they would often be asked to pay a hefty restocking fee.
In any case, the FTC took note of the problem and has acted strongly against the offenders.
The FTC’s Explains How to Avoid Scams Like This in the Future
The FTC has targeted 29 marketers running these online scams. However, there are thousands more scam artists out there. As part of their public warning, the FTC issued some recommendations to help you avoid these scams in the future:
— Before you buy any “free trial” product online, be sure to Google search the word “[product] scam” to see what other people have to say about it. If the first bunch of results are complaints about a scam, then you should probably avoid that product.
— Read the terms and conditions of any offer before you sign up. If you want to be extra cautious, tap Ctrl+F (or search the document) and look for keywords like “dollars” “$” or “trial”.
— Watch for pre-checked boxes on any ordering form, and make sure you know what each of those checked boxes represents.
— If you have a problem, or if you’ve already signed up for a fraudulent free trial offer, contact your credit card immediately. You may need to be persistent, explains the FTC. If you still have a problem, you’ll need to contact FTC.gov.
Ultimately, free trial autoship scams are nothing new. They’ve been around for years. Follow the tips listed above and be smart about your online purchases. Never buy anything without Googling the name first.