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People nowadays are looking for ways to aggressively save money. If you really want to be wise about your finances, you will be trying to get the most value out of it. This is how the new consumer thinks. The old consumerist ways of being excessive is being forgotten. Now, they want to squeeze in as much as they can without costing their pockets too much money.
This is something that companies understand and will in fact, take advantage of. The appeal of “free” items is higher than ever. When people hear or read the words “free trials” that immediately gets their attention. Anything that they can get without spending money is given enough time and consideration.
However, the Federal Trade Commission puts out a warning how the free trials of companies can fool people out of their money. If you are not careful, you may be signing up for something that you never intended to have in the first place.
What is the purpose of free offers by companies
Before we discuss how these marketing campaigns can be tricky, let us define this first. Do not think that free trials are illegitimate scams that may be costing you money. There is a possibility but this is not always the case. There are valid reasons to do this and consumers can really benefit from it.
These trails are an effective way of encouraging both new and previous customers to try a product or service that a company offers. Here are two important concepts about this:
First of all, offering a free taste of the product or service will encourage new customers to try them out. It is just like seeing an exotic food that you have never tried before but when you tasted it, you got hooked. Some people are naturally averse to change and that makes them unwilling to try something new - especially if they have to pay for it. If this is the case, the only way that you can try something new, or be more inclined to, is when it is offered to you for free.
These free trials are only applicable for a certain period of time. It is not free forever. At the end of the trial, the consumer will have to decide if they want to continue availing of the product or service. This is a great way for companies to quantify the cost of the campaign and measure the reaction of consumers towards what they offer. The end of the trial will emit the feeling of loss in the customer and that can fuel their decision to go ahead and pay for the continued use of the product or service.
Now that you know what free trials are all about, you may be wondering, how can it trick me out of my money?
Well here is where companies can be quite deceptive. They offer these without a clear indication of what will happen after the trial period. What some consumers do not know is that the details are obscured in the fine prints. Some companies write an automatic subscription without really making it clear to the consumers. Some people think that after the trial period, the whole thing will stop. What they do not know is they will be automatically billed for it. That is what makes all of this very tricky.
How to avoid being tricked by companies offering free trials
The FTC or Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers to be wary of these free trials. In fact, they gave a couple of warnings because they noticed a lot of complaints from consumers about these programs. Apparently, companies will not only deceive the consumer about the automatic subscription after the trial, they will also make it hard to cancel. While the subscription is not yet cancelled, you will be continually billed for something that you never really wanted to sign up for.
Here are some of the tips from the FTC.gov that you can do to help you avoid being tricked by these free trials.
Do your research. FTC encourages consumers to research the company behind the free offer before they sign up for anything. If there are any complaints about the company, they should think twice before availing of the free trial. They can look into the Better Business Bureau or even forums to see what consumers are saying about the company or the free trial itself.
Read the fine prints. The site also advises that consumers look at the terms and conditions of the offer. Make sure you understand everything - especially what will happen after the trial period. You do not want to be stuck paying for something that you do not want to have.
Check if the company is really the one making the offer. Sometimes, the offer is being made by another site in behalf of the company.
Be careful of the signup form. In case you really want to push through with the trial, you should be careful of the pre-checked boxes. Read through them and uncheck anything that you do not want to have.
Keep in mind the end of the trial program. Know when the trial will end and try to cancel before the end of that period. Just in case they give you a hard time cancelling, you will not go over the end date of the trial period.
Research early the steps to cancel. FTC urges consumers to know what will happen and the steps to follow when they want to cancel the trial program.
- Always check your card statements. Lastly, the government site advises consumers to check their monthly statements to see if they are being charged for something that they are not intending to subscribe to. That way, they can do something about it.