Editor’s Note: We have victims willing to be interviewed by media.
Chicago, IL – May 12, 2010 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is warning consumers about Healthy Online Services, a company based in Savage, Minn., which sells weight loss supplements and other health products online. The company has an “F” rating with the BBB due to a nation-wide pattern of complaints involving billing and customer service issues. The BBB has received 207 customer complaints against the company in the past 12 months.
Consumers filing complaints with the BBB indicate they are suddenly being billed months after signing up online for a free 14-day trial. Customers who have signed up to receive products at various Web sites operated by the company state that after paying shipping and handling, they were supposed to get their products and have the option of continuing on with their agreement after the trial period ended, incurring monthly charges or cancel the agreement during the trial period.
“From the complaints we’ve received, it’s obvious that many ads offering ‘free trial’ offers for acai berry products, anti-aging pills and other miracle supplements blanket the Internet, including trusted Web sites of national news organizations,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Hundreds of consumers complain to the BBB that the ‘free trial offers’ have actually cost them hundreds of dollars, month after month.”
Many complainants allege Healthy Online Services is not only billing them after they contacted the company during the trial period to cancel their agreement, but are also facing additional charges despite the fact they had received no prior billing or contact from the company in the months since they opted out of the agreement.
These northern Illinois consumers have fallen victim to online free trial scams:
Julia Anne Christopherson of Oswego, Ill. said, “I tried to order a free trial of Colon Cleanse online. My credit card company called to question the purchase told me that it was probably a scam and closed my account and issued a new card. They told me that if I did receive the product to write ‘return to sender’ on it and return it. I got the product and sent it back like they told me to. I got a past due invoice for $133.95 and I was shocked. When I called customer service they were rude and told me that I had 14 days from the date of the order to call and cancel. I called again and they offered to bring my balance down to $83.95. I tried calling again and they hung up on me. I contacted the BBB and after that I did not hear from them again.”
Mark Cook of Machesney Park, Ill. said, “I did not like the product and cancelled within 14 days. They billed me $89.00 for what was supposed to be a risk free trial and when I called they claimed that I never cancelled. My wife warned me but I paid the bill just to get rid of them. Then I got another charge on my credit card for $113.95 this time and I cannot get through on their Web site or phone lines. We complained to the Better Business Bureau and got a note from them saying that they cancelled the charges.”
Barbara L. Glenn of Chicago, Ill. said, “I ordered the vitamin for shipping charges of $1.95. They billed me $63.97. The product made me sick. Then I got a collection letter for $109.00 a year later. This is not fair and I can’t come up with the whole amount. I am worried about my credit.”
For consumers considering buying products online, the BBB advises the following:
· Research the Seller Thoroughly. Before making any purchases, visit www.bbb.org for FREE Reliability Reports. Remember, the more fantastic the deal, the greater the odds customers somewhere have been disappointed.
· Make Sure You Understand All the Terms of Any Offer You Receive. Thoroughly read all information on the website. Many times important information (such as future billing) is buried deep in the fine print, you many also have to click through multiple links to gather all the information you need to evaluate the offer. If you have concerns about an offer you receive, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, take a step back and do some more investigating.
· Consult a Professional. Before taking any weight-loss supplement or trying a new health product, be sure to consult a health care professional. Some Web sites offering products of this nature make unrealistic claims or give advice which could be damaging to your health. Make sure you know what you’re buying and that the claims marketers are making have basis in fact and won’t jeopardize your health.
For additional information on free-trial scams, file a complaint or research a company, visit www.bbb.org
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.