The beauty market has been overflowing with large numbers of products being introduced into the market.
The free Autoship and trial programs at first were meant to build trust and offer services even before the potential customer subscribed to a full service.
The Autoship programs have continued to increase in number, such that you can bump into any such offer whenever you access the internet.
Furthermore, they are not only being used to advertise programs, but they are also being used for fraudulent services.
FTC has finally taken the step and decided to sue companies that are selling some of these Autoship programs through the internet.
The suit is meant to bar these companies from selling such offers online through deceptive marketing means and or using business practices that are fraudulent in nature or prone to fraud.
The suit targets a lot of marketers especially those based in California. Some of them include those selling products from Auravie, LeOr Skincare products, Dellure, and other Face Kit marketers and product sellers online.
The suit is ordering these companies to surrender their assets all of them that when combined amount to a total of around $2.7 million.
How Autoship Program Works?
The Autoship programs are designed to work in a way that they are legalized.
Indefinite terms, they operate legally and the fraudulent activities are protected due to the fact that the user or customer has agreed to terms of service set before commencing the trial program.
This makes it quite hard to identify fraudulent sellers and differentiating them from genuine sellers.
It also makes it easy to identify fake or fraudulent companies.
However, one has to be careful with any fine prints that they accept or issue instructions or offer personalized information.
The first step towards understanding how this fraudulent organization works by identifying elements that dictate fake products or fraudulent activities. The first step is:
1. Check the “Website”
Many of these entities have well-developed websites but offer very little information pertaining to the product.
They ensure the information provided is bleak and no supporting evidence is provided.
Here are some tips to identify such companies or organisations:
- Overwhelming scientific descriptions and definitions that one is unable to understand or identify with
- Extensive or a wide range of benefits associated with that specific product that are just claims by manufacturers and not supported by research.
- Use of the media to promote such products increasing their popularity instead of offering genuine information
- Claims that the product is out of stock yet the product is delivered or availed once you make your purchase order
- Many smaller sites online that are supporting the same product aimed at enhancing your confidence in the product.
Finally, the website prompts you to enter your contact details and any other essential information so that it can offer you feedbacks and other major news that come up in reference to the product.
2. “Free” Trial Offers?
After every product is released into the market, a trial offer is generated.
In some cases, all that is designed is a trial advert allowing you to use the product for a certain period of time before making your subscription.
These are designed in a way that they attract you from afar, dictate that it is not wise to wait around for the product to be out of stock and often suggest that the trial period is limited to a top number of people who make the first reservation.
This indicates the urgency and you are the potential user end up falling into their online Autoship program traps.
3. What are the Terms of Service?
The first step towards fraud is committed from this step onwards.
This is because you are required to accept the terms and conditions of service indicated.
As usual, customers are often over trusting and they end up failing to read the terms and conditions.
These results in marketers aiming to commit fraud to enter sub-clauses that they are sure we will not read and or understand as a customer.
Here are some of the things of factors that will make you trust them even more.
Shipping Fees “Tricks”
This is explained as needed for sustenance and maintenance of the company.
As a jovial and excited customer waiting to try out the new product, you will obvious agree to this.
Furthermore, the $4 or $5 indicated are a small amount compared to the $100 worth of the product you are being offered making a ‘risk-free money expenditure’.
For all you know, ‘you just saved $95 from going to waste on a silly product’, how ironic that statement is we’ll see in a short while.
Understanding Credit Card Pre-Authorizations
Before the free sample or you are subscribed to the Autoship program, a preauthorized charge of the products real cost is charged to your credit card.
A prompt will appear asking you to authorize it otherwise you will not receive the sample product.
The amount is normally present in the terms of service indicated on the website.
The charge will for an amount of around $100 to be charged monthly.
4. Beware Of Trial Offer Period!
Normally, a period of around 14 or 18 days is given for the free samples and or the Autoship trial offer program.
This starts from the day you subscribe for the free offer including the days you wait for the free sample to be delivered and the remaining days to use it.
However, many customers are unaware of this fact and end up using the product past the due free sample period.
Imagine what happens then, ‘you run to the bank only to find a charge of more than $100 credited to the company for a product you are even sure you want to use’.
Making the situation even worse, a well-packaged product is delivered to your front door with any form of warning or acceptance.
We know! You are wondering how this is possible.
Well, let us do the math.
The 14 days are business days making sure that the weekends are not included. However, remember that these companies are aiming at defrauding you indicating that they might count in the period in the form of calendar days.
After making the subscription on a Tuesday, you add around five days for the product to be delivered.
It will arrive on the Tuesday of the following week, the remaining calendar days are around 8 making it your business to try out the product in the first two to three days before commencing the return process (the return process should be started before the trial period expires).
This means you have no idea if the product works and already you are being charged for the product!
This often occurs due to the type of subscription you committed to and most of them are automatic or are made automatic.
Sometimes, the charges comprise of shipping fees and other additional fees plus the product costs.
All aimed at fleecing you up.
If you don’t cancel or unsubscribe, then the charges continue until there is no money left to be charged on your credit card.
5. “Cancellations and Product Returns Policy”
Returning the product of canceling one’s subscription is marred with challenges and difficulties due to different reasons.
Some being uncooperative customer care services or the absence of it.
Whoever said that customer services for these products operate 24/7 definitely lied.
Some of the challenges faced during this cancellation process include:
- Assurance that your cancellation is successful and yet you find further bank credits going to similar company at the end of the month
- Being reassigned to a new product that you had no idea that it even existed
- Customer care services being unavailable or failing to ensure your subscription service is canceled and being rude about it.
- Hefty and huge fees charged especially if returning the product titled ‘restocking fees’.
The issues discussed above are some of the reasons why FTC has taken up the challenge that consumers are facing and finally gone to court to stop it.
We believe it is a way to strongly defend the public and since the public is made up of trusted employees, it offers a chance to protect and ensure genuine and honest services for them in general.
Explanations issued by FTC on How to Avoid Such Situations?
Since FTC is an organization just like many others, it may not be able to capture or sue all the companies that may be engaging in fraudulent activities.
As a way forward, it has provided the public with ways through which to avoid such conditions, situations and protect themselves from such financial scams.
Some of the ways it issued include:
- Whenever making a purchase for any product that includes a free trial, it is important to Google Search that product before making the purchase. If the results in regards to that specific product are about a “product scam” or anything similar to it, do not make the purchase.
- Terms of service are designed to be read not only agreed to. This especially applies to a situation where you have to enter personal or credit card information. Generally, read these terms and ensure you understand them in depth before agreeing or accepting them in any platform whether online or in person.
- Thoroughly examine the ordering form issued or prompted online. Ensure you understand what any of the checked sections and those faintly indicated words in different parts of the form say or represent before making the purchase.
- Once you notice that you have subscribed to a scam or fraudulent product offer, it is prudent to contact your credit card company immediately and cancel your credit card. Being persistent is what you should ensure to prevent more amounts from being credited to the companies. If the process fails, then you can contact FTC.gov for assistance.
The free trial and free sample programs have been in the market for a long time.
Just because scams have made their way into these as well, you don’t have to be alarmed.
By being informed and following some of the steps given above and knowing what to expect at all times, is the main pathway towards making informed choices and purchasing genuine goods.
Remember, information is power and Google Search is there to offer more assistance when needed.