The Better Business Bureau has received complaints from consumers who tried a free Internet offer for smokeless cigarettes, but ended up being burned when they were unexpectedly charged for the trial.
Not every BBB has received complaints, however consumers in 44 states have filed more than 360 complaints against Direct E-Cig of Naples, Florida and London, England this past year.
Consumers say they ordered what they thought was a free starter kit, only to find out later that the company billed their credit cards for $100, $200, or more.
Direct E-Cig has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest possible rating.
In response to complaints, Direct E-Cig told BBB its website states consumers must go through a cancellation process within 15 days “to avoid being billed the full price of the kit of $109.95 and future monthly shipments,” though many consumers were solicited by direct mail and say they never saw the cancellation policy.
Even if consumers are dissatisfied with the product and follow the return policy exactly, the free trial offer will end up costing them money. The website notes that Direct E-Cig charges $7.50 for each opened or missing cartridge and a $10 restocking fee on all returns.
On its website, Direct E-Cig calls its product “a revolutionary electronic smoking device designed as a great smoking alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes.” The site says smokers can smoke “virtually anywhere, without the flame, ash, tar, or carbon monoxide.”
However, a warning in small print on the company’s site states “This product contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance. It has not been approved by the FDA as a smoke cessation device.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers about the potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes. They report that these kinds of products can increase nicotine addiction among young people and may lead them to try other tobacco products including conventional cigarettes.
Your BBB suggests consumers follow the tips when considering taking advantage of any free or low-cost trial offer:
- Be wary of committing to a trail offer, especially when you are asked to supply credit card information. Often, these offers require you to pay the full price for the product or automatically enroll you in an ongoing program as soon as the trial period is over.
- Consumers often report difficulty canceling their agreements, even if they try to follow all requirements.
- Understand, in some cases, these companies can supply your contact information to other businesses.
- Check out BBB company reports before doing business. Start with www.bbb.org.