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November 29, 2017

Free trial? Not so fast!

Ordering an item for a trial period can be a great way to determine whether it's something you'd like to start buying regularly.

Many consumers don’t realize that free trial periods often roll into actual subscriptions if they’re not cancelled within a specific amount of time. Unfortunately, there’s often very little we can do to help dispute a charge unless it’s an unauthorized purchase or the goods or services were never delivered. Simply stated, if you signed up for a free trial and received the product but didn’t cancel the trial in time, you might be on the hook for that charge. That’s why it’s incredibly important to pay attention to the fine print. So what should you look out for?

Small details make a big difference

As you’re ordering a free trial, it’s tempting to just click “I agree” when you see that long list of fine print. But skimming through and getting some specifics—and retaining a copy for future reference—does have its advantages.

Make note of:

  • What happens when the trial period ends. Trying out a product often automatically signs you up for a monthly subscription—and monthly charge!—for the item. If you don’t want to continue paying after the trial ends, set yourself a reminder to call and cancel in plenty of time.
  • The cancellation policy. Most offers (even those that are “free except for shipping and handling”) have a cancellation time period if you do not want be charged the full amount for the merchandise. This time period is usually within a certain number of days of the order, not of receipt of the product.
  • The return policy. If you cancel after the trial period ends, many terms and conditions state that the product(s) can be returned for a full or partial refund, minus shipping and restocking fees. Retain a copy of the tracking and shipping documents to prove the date the item(s) shipped, just in case you need to prove the timeliness of your return. Remember that, in most cases, the shipping and restocking fees cannot be refunded.

Bottom line

The old adage “knowledge is power” is true here—taking a few extra minutes to educate yourself can save you a lot of headaches, and make you a savvy sampler.