FTC, Visa and Better Business Bureau Send out Consumer Warning22 Dec, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response This Week
NEW YORK – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Visa and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are warning consumers about “negative option” Web marketing and E-mail offers, reports DMNews.com.
The partnership is a warning, in particular, against free-trial offers that require a cancellation or opt-out later on. In these cases, if a consumer fails to cancel a free trial offer – usually an E-mail or Web-based promotion – the company takes it to mean that the consumer wants the product or service and begins charging a one-time or monthly fee. Although some retailers are clear about how the cancellations and opt-outs work, others hide the details in the fine print or terms or conditions.
The initiative was announced on Dec. 17, and the group said that all complaints by consumers could be filed with the FTC, a local BBB or to Visa. Visa specifically launched a microsite with frequently asked questions about the deceptive online marketing practice, which gives consumers tips to avoid these options and how to report problems with marketers.
“Free trial marketing can be convenient for consumers – if the terms are clearly spelled out beforehand,” says David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Legitimate marketers don’t hide critical information about costs or cancellation policies to get their customers to agree to future changes.”