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Food delivery services can be a convenience for people with busy lives. Free trial offers and online reviews can help people decide which service they want to use. But when reviews are deliberately skewed and subscription terms are hidden, that’s not just unhelpful. It’s against the law.

Today, the FTC announced a settlement with UrthBox, Inc., a California-based food delivery service, and its owner, Behnam Behrouzi. According to the FTC, UrthBox offered customers incentives, including free snack boxes, to post positive reviews online. But the company didn’t clearly tell people that customers who posted those reviews were rewarded. The FTC says these reviews were deceptive because they appeared to be independent reviews when, in fact, they were not.

The FTC also says UrthBox didn’t adequately disclose key terms of its “free” snack box offer. A key term left hidden? When the free trial expired, UrthBox would automatically enroll customers in a subscription plan. And charge them the total amount for six months of shipments, sometimes as much as $269.

The settlement bars UrthBox and Behrouzi from engaging in similar conduct and requires them to pay $100,000 to customers deceived by the trial offers.

The next time you plan to buy anything based on an online review:

Think about the source of the review. Where is it coming from? Is it from an expert organization or individual customers?

Do the reviews sound legitimate, like they’re from real people who used the product or service? Sometimes, awkward language or reviews that all sound alike are a tip-off that the reviews may be fake.

If you’re thinking about a free trial offer or subscription service:

Compare online reviews from a wide variety of websites. While you’d want to read critically, user reviews on various retail or comparison sites give you a good idea about what’s going on. Complaints from other customers can tip you off to "catches" that might come with the trial.

Check the terms and conditions for the offer. If you can't find them or can't understand exactly what you're agreeing to, don't sign up.

Find out how to cancel. If you don't want it, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?

Read more at "Free" Trial Offers? and watch this video, Online Reviews and Recommendations.


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Mrs Hutchinson
April 03, 2019
Many subscription services operate like this. I’ve been caught up in magazine subscriptions, free, Amazon Prime, Amora Coffee, ITunes 3-month trial. Many of these were rewards for not winning a gift card from Walmart or Amazon. I am wary of anything offering a consolation prize even though you have no idea that you’ve received a consolation prize or something you don’t want and lose several hundred dollars getting stopped.
April 03, 2019
I believe that happened to me with Hopsy. I received the dispenser and 2 mini kegs of beer. I get an email a month later, saying I will be receiving more beer for $75.00 for four mini kegs. I called them, they said if I cancel it was going to cost me $99.00. I went ahead and had them send the beer. We have not drank any of it, so I went ahead and canceled for $99.00.
April 04, 2019
You really have to be on your toes these days. Scammers everywhere you go. Can't get away from them. Just read and educate yourself. I never go for the free trials. Heard too many horror stories about them.
April 04, 2019
Before downloading these apps, I click to read the reviews. They only show a few so I click on MORE. WATCH OUT! THEY ONLY SHOW THE POSITIVE REVIEWS. Click on ALL.