Trading standards officers warn over ‘free trial’ scam

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Trading standards officers are warning about a type of online scam following 30 complaints across Derbyshire.

Derbyshire County Council officials said the con involves consumers taking up ‘trial’ offers which effectively sign them up for recurring payments called continuous payment authorities (CPAs).

One of the most frequent complaints related to websites advertising diet pills and anti-wrinkle cream, the authority said.

Some consumers who accepted trials complained to trading standards officers weeks later when they noticed several debits of between £50 and £100 taken from their card – despite repeated references on the website to a ‘risk free trial’ of the product.

In most cases customers agreed to pay small postage costs but a clause in the small print committed them to monthly auto payments of between £50 and £100 with no apparent way to stop the deliveries or debits.

Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Dave Allen said: “We always advise consumers to read the terms and conditions of any contract carefully. The problem is that this information can be hidden and is not immediately obvious.

“Many of these scam operators quote UK addresses on their website but often these are just mailing addresses and customers have to pursue their lost money overseas, which is far more difficult.

“We would advise people to be very wary about accepting any free online product trial offer without carefully reading the small print first.”