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Undersecretary Barbara AnthonyPosted by:
Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation

Losing weight is not an easy task. It takes hard work, diet and exercise. Many people like to think there’s a shortcut to losing weight, and there are plenty of entities out there willing to offer a solution that might be more mythical fountain of youth than legitimate weight-loss helper.

One of the latest trends in weight-loss sales is the “free” trial that is anything but free. In many cases, it comes from companies selling one of the newer fads, Acai berry-based potions.

These companies offer what they say is a “free” trial period, and if you like the product, you’ll be charged for monthly shipments. But that two-week starter pack isn’t really free. Instead, if you don’t cancel after two weeks, you get charged a full month’s cost for the trial period – sometimes $80 or more.

On top of that, you don’t even get the full 14 or 15 days to try the product. Instead, your clock starts ticking when you place your order or your order is shipped from the warehouse – not when you start using the product – shaving days off your trial period. The company grabs your credit-card information upfront to pay for shipping and handling, so it can start billing you for future shipments under the terms of agreement without notifying you.

So, while the effectiveness of most weight-loss products is highly dubious, now consumers also have to be concerned that many of these products are being offered for a “free” trial that can instead be an expensive undertaking.

If you’re buying these products on the phone or online, take the time to get all the details. Search out the terms and conditions on the company’s website, or ask a representative what the terms are. I talked with Channel 5’s Susan Wornick about this issue last week in an interview, and you can find out more by watching that Web-exclusive interview.

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