Meg’s story is not so dissimilar to the hundreds of complaints from health and diet supplement users the BBB handles.
She ordered a “free trial” from LipoTrim, a weight-loss supplement advertised to give quick, effective and safe weightless results. As part of this order, she agreed to send $4.95 for shipping and handling.
After taking the recommended dosages for two days, she felt bloated, uncomfortable and discarded the bottle, pills and information brochures. Under the assumption that it was a “free trial,” she was baffled when she reviewed her credit card statement and discovered three charges for $4.95, $14.90 and $147.85.
She called the customer service phone line and was told she had agreed to the terms and conditions. She responded by making a complaint with BBB.
Her complaint was one of hundreds filed against businesses that sell diet supplements and health products over the Internet. BBB and FTC handle complaints about companies from making so-called “negative-option” sales, such as continuity plans and free or introductory price trial offers, where consumers pay nothing up front or only a small fee to receive a product, but are then automatically charged a higher price unless they take steps to cancel the shipments, or return the product before the end of the trial period.
LipoTrim has 42 complaints closed in last 12 months. Several pending complaints on file with BBB are awaiting the company’s response and are not reflected in the closed complaint number. LipoTrim responds to complaints filed with the BBB by providing refunds, cancelling orders and any further withdrawals. Recent responses made by LipoTrim state they will only refund the customer’s money if the trial bottle is returned.
Recently, FTC issued a warning on the product HCG Extreme, a weight-loss drug that can be taken in liquid or solid application. HCG is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss. The only legal form of HCG is prescribed by doctors to treat female infertility, not weight loss.
In another case, FTC took action against an operation that marketed acai berry supplements, “colon cleansers,” and other products using allegedly fraudulent free trial offers. The case against Phoenix-based Central Coast Nutraceuticals, Inc., is part of the its ongoing efforts to protect consumers from fraudulent internet marketing, as well as false and misleading health claims.
BBB advises consumers to follow these tips when purchasing diet/weight-loss supplements:
- Do your research. It is important to know the risks of diet supplements since many are untested and unreliable. Most are composed of caffeine, appetite suppressant, fat blockers and more. Even “natural” supplements are made up of unhealthy ingredients.
- Know the side effects. Diet supplements are full of ingredients that cause adverse effects such as nausea, increased blood pressure, stroke, seizures, headache, insomnia, and much more.
- How realistic are those results? Shed those extra pounds, have increased energy, feel fuller faster – are these guaranteed results? Most diet supplements are marketed with extreme dieting and exercise regimes that are not only unhealthy but dangerous.
- Don’t forget the fine print. Many manufacturers of diet supplements don’t offer money-back guarantees. Can you return any unused product? Will you be charged monthly for auto-shipping? Be sure to read all disclaimers and know what you’re signing up for before you buy any products.
- Don’t check boxes. Many of these companies use their website’s “check boxes” as part of the confirmation and agreement process. Before checking the box, make certain you have read and understand the conditions.