Free trials for diet pills have been a huge problem in the U.S. for a number of years, but now the scammers are hitting the U.K. hard. With a fairly untapped market of fresh victims, we look at how you can protect yourself and fight back in the war against the conmen.
We have had hundreds of people contacting us, mostly after falling for the sneaky tactics these people use to trick you out of your money. In some case it can be nearly $200 per month, which can be a huge financial loss to most people.
The common way is to trick you in to signing up for a “free trial” of a diet pill, but then hidden in the small print you have unwittingly signed up for a recurring subscription. They do this by using some tried and tested tactics that lull you into a false sense of security. When you are at your weakest they strike and before you know it you learn a very hard lesson, everything is not always what it seems.
So how can you protect yourself from these scammers, and more importantly if you have been a victim then how can you get your money back?
Number 1 rule: NEVER EVER SIGN UP FOR A FREE TRIAL FOR ANY DIET PILL!
This way you avoid the potential pitfalls completely. 99.9% of diet pill free trials are a scam so this way you know you can’t fall for it.
Do you honestly think these people would be giving away a product for a few dollars shipping out of the goodness of their hearts? Absolutely not, it is well crafted con that has only several winners, but none of them will be you.
Here’s a handy video produced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that explains Free Trial Offers in more detail:
Federal Trade Commission article and video concerning free trial offers
But I’ve Already Been Scammed, What Do I Do Now?
1. Don’t Blame Yourself
These guys are extremely skilled and have finely crafted a very lucrative con, which makes them millions of dollars every week. As such you have fallen for a sophisticated scam that has affected millions of other ordinary people just like you.
As such do not blame yourself for falling for their tricks and do not take it personally. Try and remove your emotions and look at it in a business like fashion. Of course this is easily said than done, but it’s the first step to fighting back.
2. Gather Information
So now you are going to get everything together that you can. Grab a notepad and write down everything you know so far:
- Company name, address, and telephone numbers
- Company website
- Any terms and conditions you can find
- Where did you see the advert (if you can remember)
- Delivery dates
- Billing dates
- All your credit card or bank account details
- Anything else you can find
This way you now have everything at hand. Keep an on going diary of phone calls, emails, and letters you send just in case you might need it later
3. Contact the Company
Now that you know you have signed up for the recurring billing, the first thing to do is contact the company and explain the situation. This is easily said than done, as normally they make it as hard as possible to cancel, after all this is how they make the vast profits.
There should be a U.K. phone number for support if it is a U.K company, however many of these people outsource the work to call centres. These are usually based in Utah in America, as this is the home of most of the diet pill scams online.
So sit down with a coffee and keep going until you get to speak to someone. We have heard all sorts of stories of being cut off repeatedly, put on hold for long periods, then if you do get through getting passed from pillar to post. This is where you need to keep going, do not give up and keep trying; you may strike lucky and be answered quickly.
Once you manage to get through, remember to keep calm. Think business like and despite wanting to maybe scream and shout at them, then whatever you do try and keep control. Speak firmly and in an authoritative manner with one eye on the ultimate goal, getting out of this with everything cancelled and your money back.
Simply state the facts, you have been misled into signing up for the trial and wish to cancel with immediate effect. In most cases, the person on the other end of the phone is only paid a few dollars per hour as an employee. They are only trying to earn a living working in a call centre so stay polite and firm, and then explain the situation.
They do not usually have the authority to deal with it themselves and normally need to “go off and speak to my manager”, but stay persistent and you should get the answers you are looking for.
These call centres are also targeted on how many refunds they can turn away, so it is better for them to fob you off. But keep at it and you should get there.
4. Cancelling a U.S. Based Free Trial
If it’s a U.S. phone number then they are under some very strict rules from the FTC. Some of the things that might apply to your scenario could be:
- You got to the offer by clicking on an advert from a fake news site
- The fake news site said the trial was completely free
- It was implied on the website that the trial was completely free
- You had to submit your credit card details before the terms and conditions were shown
- The terms and conditions did not appear directly above the submit button
Because the FTC are much stricter with what can and can’t be done with free trials, there is a much more rigid structure in place. Falling out with them can prove very expensive, so the companies will do everything they can to stay off the radar.
You can use this to your advantage, if you find you are getting nowhere then mention that you will be contacting the FTC with immediate effect. Remember this is only for U.S. based free trials.
The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
In most cases, they will cancel the contract and reimburse you the money they have taken. Legally it has to be cancelled anyway, but it can sometimes be a goodwill gesture for them to give you your money back. At this stage, keep calm, and remain firm.
One thing on your side is that the FTC is not only going after the companies that are processing and supplying these diet pills, but also the affiliate networks and affiliates themselves who are placing the adverts that lull you in the first place.
As such, if you got to the site from one of these fake sites then ultimately the company is paying for these leads, in many cases the company themselves place the fake adverts so its worth pursuing this angle.
5. Cancelling a U.K. Based Free Trial
As we have said before, the U.K. is a new place to target so there’s been an explosion of these trials in recent times.
Although most of the people behind these scams are American, they are now setting up a limited company, usually with hidden addresses. This is so they can avoid potential problems with the FTC in America, where they can be liable of fines worth millions of dollars if they are caught.
The U.K. is much further behind, and the Office of Fair Trading is only just catching on to what is going on online. There are also much slacker rules about what they can and can’t do and say, but importantly there is one piece of legislation that can be on your side.
This is the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000.
This is a very important piece of legislation, and in most cases these companies ride completely roughshod over it. One part of it specifically relates to selling online via a website, so in our case it fits perfectly.
The onus is for any business selling online to comply with these regulations, which are designed to try and protect the consumer from falling victim to scams. There is a specific “cooling off” period designed to protect customers.
If you buy anything online from a U.K. based company, then you are covered under these regulations.
The key here is that they must by law provide you with certain “Prior Information”. If even one of these things is not done then they are acting illegally.
The information, which MUST be given to, you include:
- Name and address of supplier (PO Box is no good)
- Description of the main characteristics of the goods
- Price including all taxes
- Delivery costs
- Arrangements for payment and delivery
- Existence of a right to cancel
- Minimum duration of contract
- Whether you must return the goods if you cancel
- Conditions to cancel the contract
- Geographical address to address complaints
All this must be given in a clear and comprehensible manner, and must be confirmed in writing. There is specific reference to a “durable medium” which does not include having the terms on the website only.
This can include email, so unless you had a confirmation email after you had placed the order for the free trial, which included all the details in a clear way, then the contract is possibly null and void.
Some companies have the terms and conditions on their websites, which must be viewable before you sign up. However, they must provide these in writing (email) as well.
So now we know what the company must legally supply, if at any stage you feel that the company has failed to do any of the above then it has breached the regulations and the contract is potentially illegal.
If they are using a PO Box then this does NOT meet the regulations. They must have a valid physical address and not a virtual one.
Rights to Cancel
Under the distance selling regulations, a customer has a right to cancel within a set cancellation period (the cooling down period),
The cancellation period starts on conclusion of the contract.
This is extremely important, as it varies as to when you received the additional information they legally had to send you.
If the additional information, clearly setting out the contract, is sent before or at the time of delivery of the goods then the cancellation period is 7 working days, beginning on the day after the goods were delivered.
This is important, as there is usually a delay in sending out the goods on the free trial. In many cases they are not sent until the 14 (calendar) day trial period is up, they then lock you in to the contract. However under the regulations then you still have the 7 working days to cancel.
Most of these free trials will not have sent you the additional requirements in writing as per the regulations.
This is where it gets interesting, because you still have 7 working days if you receive the additional requirements setting out your rights after you receive the goods!
This is catch 22 for the scammers. By failing to send out the additional requirements after you placed the order (by email or in writing), then they have failed to comply with the regulations.
But, if they send them out after you get the goods then you still have 7 working days to cancel.
So What Do I Do Next?
Now that you are aware of the Distance Selling Regulations, then this is the time to ring them up requesting a cancellation of the contract. You should also send an email as well.
Explain that you have been misled by the advertising which led you to their website, and that you believe they have not complied with the regulations by failing to provide you with all the information in the contract in writing.
Occasionally they will agree to the cancellation, but will only offer say 50% of what you have paid. This also breaks the regulations, as they must pay back everything:
3.48 The DSRs require the business to refund any money paid by or on behalf of the consumer in relation to the contract to the person who made the payment. This means the full price of the goods, or deposit or pre-payment made, including the cost of delivery. The essence of distance selling is that consumers buy from home and receive goods at home. In these circumstances, almost every case of home shopping will involve delivery of the goods ordered and so delivery forms an essential part of the contract.
Source: Office of Fair Trading, Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000
Hopefully this should be the end of it, you should have got a full refund if you follow this through. The rules are there to protect the customer so use them properly. If they do not comply with the regulations and they are a UK company, then you are in your rights to report them as well.
Remember, keep calm and stick to your guns.
6. Getting Your Money Back Through The Bank
If you have approached the companies correctly and they are still refusing to play ball (highly unlikely), then the next step is to approach your bank or credit card company.
You must explain that you have had money taken from your account which you believe is fraudulent.
You can only do this if you believe that the company is in breach of the Distance Selling regulations as we have set out above (for the U.K.), or the FTC Free trial rules for the U.S.
You can not say it is fraud if they have completely followed all the regulations, and it is an oversight or mistake on your part that led you to sign up for the free trial. In this scenario at least you will have got the contract ended, but may have lost the money from the first payments.
At this time you will be assigned up for a CPA or Continuous Payment Authority. Your bank will tell you to contact the company to get the payments stopped. Do this in writing and by email (to the company) by requesting that the payment authority is terminated.
However, you have the right to cancel them directly with your bank or card issuer by telling it that you have stopped permission for the payments.
Your bank or card issuer must then stop them – they have no right to insist that you agree this first with the company taking the payments.
Be aware, though, that you will still be responsible for paying any money that you owe, if you have not cancelled the contract.
Again keep calm and stick to your guns, the bank must act in your interest so don’t let them fob you off. If not you can always report them as well to the Financial Services Authority.
Another option is to ask for a “chargeback” for the money that has been taken from your account. The company then has to prove to its own bank (who processed the payment) that it acted 100% legally, and complied with all the laws necessary. It must also prove that you were not misled or miss-sold, and if it can’t do this then you will have the money refunded.
7. Learn The Lessons
Hopefully you will have managed to extract yourself from this whole mess, and can move on with your life.
Remember that 99.9% of free trials are a scam, these people are manipulating people in order to make vast profits for themselves. They have no morals or guilt about what they do, so fight them and get your own back! Always keep this in mind when you are dealing with these people, you have the moral high ground.
Please do not confuse all diet pills with these free trials. There are many decent companies offering good products amongst all the rubbish and scams out there. This was why this site came about, to try and offer objective advice on diet pills, so that ultimately the consumer gets a good product from a good company at a good price. Please see our list of approved diet pills that we feel you can order without any nasty shocks.
If we can stop one person from signing up to one of these scams, or help one person get their money back after being duped, then it will have all been worth it. Please post a link to this page on any forums, Facebook pages, and Twitter where this sort of thing is being talked about. Hopefully with some hard work and a bit of luck, we can get these horrible free trials finally banned altogether.
Disclaimer: Please do not take any of the above as legal advice. We are not qualified lawyers and as such can’t offer legal advice. We are consumer advocates, so are offering our views and opinions from the point of view of the consumer. If you are in any doubt over what you have read, then please get proper qualified legal advice before going any further.
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.