Dublin, 19th January 2015 – The European Consumer Centre in Ireland is advising consumers to be cautious when signing up to free trials this January. The Centre saw an increase of 89% in the number of free trial complaints received in 2014, with some consumers charged up to €1,200 by disreputable traders.

January is often considered a time for new beginnings and many people will have made New Year’s resolutions for the forthcoming year. However, consumers looking online for tips or advice on diet regimens or beauty products should beware advertisements for free trials of certain products, which may be fronts for costly subscription services. This issue tends to be particularly prevalent at this time of year as unscrupulous traders may seek to take advantage of consumers looking for information online.

ECC Ireland has received a significant number of complaints from consumers caught out by purported free trials for skincare products and dietary supplements over the past year. In most cases, consumers were asked to pay a small amount for postage and packaging, only to subsequently discover that they had been signed up for an expensive subscription service. Many consumers reported that the products were not delivered until the free trial period had already expired, while in other cases they were not received at all.

Although many such traders provide European addresses, it is suspected that, in many cases, these are used for mail forwarding purposes and the trader in fact operates from outside the EU. As this can make further investigation difficult, it is important to be vigilant against such traders and to take steps to minimise the possibility of being caught out.

Consumers are advised to thoroughly research traders offering a free trial of a good or service and to verify any contact details through further internet searches. Such searches can also help to turn up any negative feedback left by other consumers about the trader. Consumers are strongly encouraged to consult the trader’s terms and conditions and to carefully read any small print before making a purchase.

If a consumer feels they have been caught out by a free trial scam, they should write immediately to the trader and indicate that they wish to cancel the contract. Of those who contacted ECC Ireland, some were able to secure a partial refund though this was often subject to a costly administration fee. Other consumers were able to seek assistance from their bank or credit card provider.

For further advice and assistance, contact ECC Ireland on (01) 8797 620.

For more information/media queries, please contact Grace Duffy on (01) 8797 641 or at ECC Ireland can also be found on Twitter @eccireland.