Skin care ads dupe consumers with ‘free trial’ offers

Data pix.

DENVER--Despite what you may see and read on the internet, Joanna Gaines, star of HGTV series Fixer Upper is not starting her own skin care line.

71-year-old Cheryl Webb was watching YouTube when an advertisement featuring Gaines selling a moisturizing cream popped up.

“You expect to like the cream and that it helps your skin be smooth,” Webb said.

Webb is retired and living on a budget, but a trial offer for L’ojesete cream sounded too good to pass up.

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Free Trial Offer "Wrinkle Freezing Moisturizer"

Webb said, “It cost $11 and I thought that would be a good way to see if I liked it.”   The offer included two products; a moisturizer and a face serum for $2 plus shipping.

When Webb checked her account, she was shocked to see two charges including one for $97.88 and another for $94.99 from a company she had never heard of before.

Webb maintains she did not order the products and called the customer service number listed on her receipt asking for a refund.

“They always said no. No returns. No refunds,” Webb said.    Webb had no idea she had agreed to buying a monthly skin product when ordering the trial offer.

After three calls to customer service with no help, Webb called the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

Webb said, “I was upset, and I told them that they stole money. I have to have medicine. Now, I’m short of money for groceries and medicine.”

Webb’s receipt led us to the company’s address based in Ft. Myers, Florida.  FOX31 also found the company using a UPS store as a distribution site in Loveland.

Trial offers leading to revolving shipping programs and unauthorized credit card charges are big business online.

The Federal Trade Commission and the BBB are teaming up and fighting back against companies using what is called a "negative option" web site.   Negative option means by placing an order a consumer is unknowingly agreeing to buying products.

BBB’s Ezra Coopersmith said, “The FTC has started taking action against a lot of these companies that aren’t disclosing the fact that they’re signing up consumers up for a membership program in their free trials.”

Consumer experts warn the best way to protect yourself is:

  •  Be aware of trial offers that require a credit card
  • Search for terms of agreement
  • Read fine print
  • Search for complaints

The Problem Solvers contacted the company, which eventually returned Webb’s $200.   She decided to skip buying more face cream.   Webb said, “It’s not worth $200.”  She said she'll spend the money on her grand kids instead.

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Cheryl Webb said, "It's not worth $200"

Anyone who thinks they were duped by this type of marketing can report it to the FTC online.

The Gaines have warned fans saying they are not getting into the skin cream business and that "believing some of these stories happens to the best of us." Magnolia

 

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