Dublin, 15th January 2014 – The European Consumer Centre in Ireland is warning consumers not to be caught out by free trial scams this January. The organisation saw a 165% increase in free trial complaints in 2013 and is advising consumers to be vigilant when trying out new products and services this year.

January is often seen as an opportune time for new starts – consumers may wish to try new exercise, diet or beauty regimens, and many look online for tips and advice. However, they should be mindful of advertisements for free trials of dietary supplements or beauty products that may turn out to be fronts for costly subscription services.

Many free trial complaints to ECC Ireland involved pop-up ads where the consumer was asked to pay a small amount for postage and packaging, only to later find that they had unwittingly signed up to a subscription service charging significant sums of money. Some complaints to the organisation involved charges of up to €400, with consumers reporting that the products did not arrive until the free trial period had already expired.

Grace Duffy, press and communications officer at ECC Ireland, says consumers should be vigilant when signing up for trials of products over the internet. “We encourage consumers to thoroughly research any trader before handing over their personal details. In some cases handled by our office, the trader did eventually provide a refund but this was often subject to a considerable administrative charge. It’s very important to read the small print and terms and conditions so that people are sure of what they’re signing up for.”

ECC Ireland recommends the following steps to anyone who thinks they’ve been caught out by a free trial –

  • Write immediately to the trader and indicate that you wish to cancel the contract.
  • Carefully read the terms and conditions – the trader may offer refunds to unsatisfied consumers, but this may be subject to a charge.
  • If you cannot get a satisfactory response from the trader, contact your credit card company to enquire about the possibility of a chargeback.

For further advice and assistance, contact ECC Ireland on (01) 8797 620. If the trader is based in Ireland, consumers can contact the National Consumer Agency on 1890 432 432.

For more information, please contact Grace Duffy on (01) 8797 641.

ECC Ireland can also be found on Twitter @eccireland.