published Friday, April 29th, 2011

Winsett: Check e-cigarette deal before you buy, light up

BIZ BULLETIN

By Jim Winsett

Q: There are ads on the Internet for e-cigarettes. Does BBB have advice or warn against online ads for e-cigarettes?

A: The price of cigarettes is steadily increasing and consumers are looking for ways to save money. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be wary of free trial offers for e-cigarettes.

It sounds like an unusual product to buy, but over the past 12 months, BBB has received hundreds of complaints from consumers across the country who thought they were getting a free trial, but ended up losing often hundreds of dollars in recurring credit or debit card charges.

Deceptive online websites offer “free trials” and are even falsely attributing news stations like ABC and CBS to the promotion of their products. Fighting deceptive free trial offers online has become a continuous battle.

Just as soon as one company is put out of business, it is replaced by another with the same model of ripping consumers off under the guise of a no-risk free trial offer.

Before signing up for any free trial offers, read the fine print carefully and always check the company out with BBB.

You will save time and money by avoiding the hassle and recurring charges of some unscrupulous offers.

BBB, along with the Federal Trade Commission, suggest you ask the following questions before signing up for a free trial:

• Is the free trial offer related to a membership, subscription or extended service contract?

• Do I have to contact the company to avoid receiving more merchandise or services?

• Who do I contact to cancel?

• Will I receive other products with the free item? If so, will I have to pay for them or send them back if I do not want them? How long do I have to decide before incurring a charge?

• Is there a membership fee? If so, is it refundable?

• Will you automatically bill my credit card for anything?

• Who is offering the trial — you or another company? What is the name and address of the company?

Additional advice on signing up for free trial offers is available at www.bbb.org/us/article/free-trial-offers--are-they-good-deals-425.

Consumers who believe they have been misled by a free trial offer can file a complaint online with the BBB at www.bbb.org.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@timesfreepress.com.

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