CHICAGO, IL – April 14, 2011 - The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to be wary of free trial offers for e-cigarettes. As with any trial offer, consumers need to read the fine print before sampling a product advertised or it may cost shoppers more than they bargained for in the long run.
Consumers from 44 states have filed more than 360 complaints with the BBB against the Naples, Fla., and London, England based company Direct E-Cig in the last year concerning the product’s trial offer. Complaints focus on the reoccurring monthly charges stemming from the 15 day free trial offer. Consumers with cancellation issues also report Direct E-Cig advertisement’s terms and conditions are not clear and conspicuous.
“The complaints allege to a serious and ongoing pattern of problems with Direct E-Cig,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Before signing up for any free trial offer, read the fine print carefully and always check out the company out with your Better Business Bureau. You’ll save time and money by avoiding the hassle and recurring charges of these offers.”
Local consumer Donna Clyburn of Chicago said, “I received an e-mail for a free sample of smokeless cigarettes for only $4.95 and I figured that if I didn’t like them, I’d only have lost $5. It came and I tried it after 14 or 15 days and it wasn’t doing it for me. I looked at my bank statement online and saw that I had been billed $109.05. I received an e-mail telling me that they were about to ship more. They said that I agreed to pay after 14 days and also get more shipments, but I had not seen that anywhere. I found their phone number and called and they said there was nothing that they could do. I kept calling and they told me that they would refund part of my money. I wrote to the Better Business Bureau and they agreed to refund the whole amount.”
Greg Erban of Chicago said, “I decided to try the 14 day trial for these smokeless cigarettes. I am a fireman and since I am not home every day it took the package 10 days to get to me. I tried one about 6 days after it was delivered and it was terrible. I called and since I had gone past the trial period they said that there was nothing they could do. I told them that the time for the trial should begin when I get the product. They would not help and instead of being nice they were very stern. They billed me $109 for the trial offer and wanted to keep shipping more but I told them not to.”
Direct E-Cig’s website notes that consumers must go through a cancellation process within 15 days “to avoid being billed the full price of the kit of $109.95 and future monthly shipments.” Consumers who received direct email solicitations from the company may not see the cancellation policy.
Even if consumers are dissatisfied with the product and follow the return policy exactly, it appears that the “free trial” offer will end up costing them money. The website notes that Direct E-Cig charges $7.50 for each opened or missing cartridge, and a $10 restocking fee on all returns.
The BBB suggests you ask the following questions before signing up for a free trial:
- Is the free trial offer related to a membership, subscription or extended service contract? If so, is it refundable?
- Do I have to contact the company to avoid receiving more merchandise or services?
- Who do I have to contact in order to cancel, and what steps will I need to take?
- Will I receive other products with the free item? If so, will I have to pay for them or send them back if I do not want them? How long do I have to decide before incurring a charge?
- Will my credit card be automatically charged for anything?
- What is the name and address of the company offering this trial?
“It has been the BBB’s experience with many free trial offers that they lead consumers to unwanted futures purchases,” added Bernas.
For more information on free trial offers, to file a complaint or to research a company, visit www.bbb.org