Online free trial offers aren't what they seem

Posted: Updated:
GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Another consumer learns the hard way that online free trial offers turn expensive when consumers fail to take action; something marketers are hoping for.

The action is canceling during the trial period. When you don't cancel in time, that triggers big, unexpected charges to your card. Many consumers don't even know they need to cancel and that's exactly how most free trials are designed.

"There was a little pop-up on the side that said 50+ women 'never wear makeup again'," Vivian Nierenberg said.

It was a free trial Vivian Nierenberg found online. All she had to do was pay $5 in shipping to try Parisian Glow facial cream. But not long after, Nierenberg says she found another charge for $89.95. At first, she thought it was fraud.

"I didn't think about it being something else that I was being charged for," Nierenberg said.

But she was being charged, for that same product that was supposed to be free. It says so in the terms and conditions. If you don't cancel at the expiration of the trial period -15 days- you pay the full price, plus commit to the same every month thereafter.

"I don't recall it, so it would have been so little, that I did not see it. And I never saw anything regarding any price," Nierenberg said.

Nearly all free trials come with similar, hard-to-find terms. Nierenberg was charged for a second month before she could cancel her subscription.

"They won't take the product back and they won't refund the money. I'm out the $200," Nierenberg said.

But she's learned the first lesson about online free trial offers.

"If it's free, don't do it, it probably isn't," Nierenberg said.

I advise every consumer to stay away from free trial offers.

But if you can't help yourself, read the terms and conditions carefully before giving your credit card information and put an alert on your phone reminding you when the free trial ends and you need to cancel.

CBS 5 News reached out to Parisian Glow several times for comment but no one from the company responded. 

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Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

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Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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