Who wouldn’t want to get a “free” book that gives us the skinny on how to power our cars and homes at no cost? Green Millionaire LLC knew just how appealing this would be for many of us.  They advertised this book online and asked consumers for their credit card or bank account number to pay a small shipping and handling fee.  Too good to be true?  You bet but lucky for us the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated these claims.

The FTC announced on April 16th a settlement with Green Millionaire that provides $2 million for consumer refunds and permanently bars Green Millionaire LLC from making misleading product claims.

Here’s why the FTC investigated Green Millionaire LLC.  In its online ads for the “free” book, consumers were told only about the shipping and handling fees.  What consumers weren’t told is:

  • They’d be charged $29.95 for a 2 month subscription to an e-magazine or
  • They’d be charged $89.95 for a 1-year subscription to an e-magazine and
  • They’d have to cancel to avoid additional charges and
  • Their credit card or bank accounts would be debited or charged without their consent.
All for an online magazine that they never ordered and might not want.
The FTC’s investigation found all of the above plus the fact that the online user testimonials about the book (“I don’t pay anything for electricity”) were all phonies.
In addition to the funds for consumer refunds, the FTC settlement bars Green Millionaire LLC (and its owners) from making claims that:
  • Any product, program or service they offer is “free,” “trial,” “no obligation,” or on a “discounted” basis;
  • The amount that a consumer will be charged or billed; and
  • The timing of any charge or the length of any trial period.”

For more details go to the FTC website (www.ftc.gov) and read the article titled “FTC Action Halts Alleged Scam That Dangled the False Promise of ‘Free Gas for Life’ Then Charged Consumers for Unwanted E-Magazine Subscriptions.”

The consent order for the settlement has to be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.  Keep an eye on the FTC website if you are among those who ordered the “free” book, and then got the unwanted e-magazine subscriptions and charges — that way, you’ll be able to keep track of how consumers can get a refund.

Equally important, this is another example of when a “free trial” is a trap — to get your private financial information and charge you for products without your consent.

So how to avoid these false “free trial” traps?  I’ll be covering that in my next blog.