Ubiquitous Ads Result in Angry Customers Across North America
Chicago, IL – October 15, 2009 – The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be extremely wary of pervasive online ads offering the promise of a whiter, brighter smile. BBBs around the country have received a number of complaints from consumers who thought they were signing up for a free trial of teeth whitening products but were repeatedly billed for products and services they didn’t want.
The ubiquitous ads for teeth whiteners can be found on popular sites such as FOXNews.com, CNN.com and ABCNews.com. The ads typically link consumers to phony blogs and fake news sites that are designed to look like impartial 3rd party endorsements of the products. The phony endorsements then direct the consumer to a main Web site that claims the product sold is “As seen on” ABC, Forbes.com, CBS News, CNN, and USA Today—and includes the logos of these news outlets.
“From the complaints we’ve received, it’s obvious that many consumers are unfortunately letting their trust in respected news outlets influence their level of trust in the products being advertised on their Web sites,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “While it may be true that advertisements for the teeth whiteners were placed on major news Web sites, reporters for USA Today or CNN did not write stories about the efficacy of the specific products being sold.”
The countless Web sites for various teeth whitening products claim to offer a no-risk, money back guarantee, free trial of the product. To sign up, customers must provide a credit or debit card number to cover shipping. Complainants to the BBB state that they are billed before their trial ends and continue to be billed after they have told the company they want to cancel. Complainants also may find mystery charges for other companies and services that they didn’t realize they were signing up for with their “free” trial.
William Truscott of Plainfield, IL fell victim to this scam: “I got an e-mail about free samples of a teeth whitening product. I printed the offer and it did not say anywhere that you had to sign up for monthly shipments. I got a bill for $70 and said—wait a minute-- and called them. They told me that I signed up for this. I had saved the ad and it does not say this anywhere. I said that I wanted credit for the samples. They stopped the shipments and the bills but I did not get credit.”
Another victim, Ann Thoele of Elmhurst, IL said: “I ordered the free sample by phone for what was supposed to be $1.99. I was billed for around $78 that I never expected. I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General and my credit card company. I really don’t intend to pay.”
The BBB nationally has identified several companies that are behind the teeth whitening ads and Web sites online including:
Advanced Wellness Research – The BBB serving West Palm Beach has received thousands of complaints from consumers regarding Advanced Wellness Research’s acai berry supplements and has begun to receive complaints from consumers about their teeth whiteners sold under the names of Max White, My Whitening, Gleaming White Smile and many others.
Dazzle White, White Smile, Teeth Smile and Dazzle Smile – The BBB serving Edmonton has received 587 complaints in the last 12 months from consumers in 47 states, five Canadian provinces, and the United Kingdom, about Dazzle White, White Smile, Teeth Smile and Dazzle Smile. Complainants report being billed as much as $79 for the free trial and are charged for several other services—such as a weight loss program.
Ivory White – The BBB serving Denver has received 625 complaints from consumers in 46 states. Complainants say they were charged as much as $78 a month for their free trial. Other related companies include Ortho White and Bella Brite which are mounting complaints as well. All three companies have been asked to add more disclosure to their Web sites regarding the free trial offer. The BBB has not yet received a response to these requests.
BBB offers the following advice to consumers on purchasing teeth whitening products online:
- Beware of supposed third-party endorsements. Be extremely cautious of any ad that links to a blog or Web site news articles. The blogs and supposed news articles were likely created by the company and are not the unbiased endorsement of real consumers or reporters.
- Always read the fine print. Many Web sites offering a free trial of a teeth whitening product do not disclose the billing terms and conditions or do not have such details prominently displayed on their Web site. Before giving the company any credit or debit card information, review the Web site fully and be aware that free trials typically result in repeated billing.
- Check the company out with your BBB first. Before signing up for any free trial, review the business’ Reliability Report™ online at www.bbb.org to see if the BBB has identified issues with the company.
- File a complaint with BBB if you feel you’ve been ripped off. Consumers who feel they are being deceived by a business selling teeth whitening products online can file a complaint with their BBB at www.bbb.org.
For more information on teeth whitening products, or online shopping go to www.bbb.org