Dieters should avoid signing up to slimming aid trials from website Raspberry Ketone Fresh, after hundreds of customers reported having unexpected payments of over £150 taken from their accounts.
The US-based diet site uses Facebook adverts to offer users three bottles of its diet pills for a trial price of £4.95. The ads claim a link with Glamour magazine.
But Raspberry Ketone Fresh fails to make clear on its site that a further payment of £149 will be taken immediately, and then again every 30 days until users cancel (see our Consumer Rights guide for more info on how to get your money back).
MoneySavingExpert.com has alerted Facebook to the adverts, and the social network site is investigating.
In a bid to clear up confusion, Glamour magazine published a statement in November 2013, which stated it had "never endorsed this product nor had any contact with the company involved" and branded it a "scam". MoneySavingExpert.com has told the magazine people are still being caught out, and it said it would "look into" the matter.
MoneySavingExpert.com campaigns co-ordinator, Wendy Alcock, says: "A £4.95 trial price followed by a rolling £150 monthly fee is one of the dearest 'special offers' we've come across. The lack of information given by Raspberry Ketone Fresh about its 'auto-subscription membership' is also one of the most misleading.
"There are lots of good freebies on the web but there is also lots of false marketing. We warn anyone ordering something that says it's free to carefully check the terms of the offer before handing over their card details."
MoneySavingExpert.com users have been venting their frustration in the Raspberry Ketone Fresh forum discussion since October. The thread is still active and being added to on an almost daily basis by users who've been caught out. So far, it's had nearly 34,000 views and 130 responses.
Here's a selection of the comments:
- Loonerj says: "This happened to me. They have taken £153.94 out of my bank and it only advertised it as £4.95!"
- cazz7 says: "I've done exactly the same thing. I followed the link from Facebook and thought I was paying £4.95, but had £153.00 taken."
- Judrops says: "I have been charged £155.14 and I really can't afford this."
- cass1561 says: "I too have fallen for this and I am usually very wary of these sorts of things."
- RedHead says: "I have emailed Glamour and told it about the page claiming to be a part of the magazine."
- Casey79 says: "I did this via Facebook thinking that as it was linked to Glamour magazine it was some kind of deal and legit."
You can get your money back. Here's how...
The diet site's terms and conditions state you have 30 days to return the product in order to get a refund. But you must contact its call centre to be given a refund number.
MoneySavingExpert.com tried to contact the call centre (0800 404 6960) four times but received no answer.
Some users say they have successfully made contact and received their money back, but many more report emails and telephone calls going unanswered.
If you have trouble getting in touch with the company, as we did, you may still be able to get your money back but it depends on how you paid.
If you paid by credit card, you may be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act as the purchase was over £100. So contact your credit card company to try to get your money back.
If you paid by debit card or had less than £100 taken from you via credit card, you may be able to get a refund from your card provider via Chargeback – though this only applies within the first 120 days of buying the goods. Also, unlike Section 75, Chargeback is a service guarantee, not a legal requirement.
As Raspberry Ketone Fresh is based in the United States, you aren't covered by the Distance Selling Regulations, which allow you to return goods bought online within seven days of receiving them.
However, some users report that on contacting the Raspberry Ketone Fresh UK distribution centre and mentioning these rights, the company has sometimes offered a refund.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) says when you cancel a subscription, you're not entitled to a refund of whatever you paid before you cancelled. However, companies may choose to offer refunds as a gesture of goodwill.
How do I stop it taking more money?
Try to contact Raspberry Ketone Fresh as soon as possible to cancel your subscription and avoid further payment.
If the site isn't contactable or disappears, tell your bank or card issuer to stop future payments. Under the 2009 Payment Services Regulations, a bank must stop such payments if asked to do so by a customer.
I feel misled, who do I complain to?
If you think you were misinformed when signing up to Raspberry Ketone Fresh, you can report it to the OFT or Trading Standards by calling the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0845 404 0506.
The information will then be passed on to the relevant law enforcement body in the US to look into.
No response from Raspberry Ketone Fresh
We've tried to contact Raspberry Ketone Fresh on at least six occasions by email and phone to offer it a right to reply but we're yet to receive a response. We will update this news story if we hear anything.
"Misleading" trials sting shoppers
The Raspberry Ketone Fresh trial isn't the first time online shoppers have been stung in this way. In July last year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated two strikingly similar websites, which both offered an almost identical weight loss product trial.
The ASA upheld complaints from consumers that both Ketonepremium.com and The-healthy-insider.com were "misleading" those who signed up for a 30-day trial and were then hit with an ongoing subscription charge of £75 a month (see the full ASA adjudication).
When asked about Raspberry Ketone Fresh, an ASA spokesman said: "The ASA is fully aware of this issue and the product you've brought to our attention.
"We are planning on undertaking some consumer awareness work in this area to highlight the problem with this kind of marketing for 'trials', particularly those advertised online.
"We take what action we can, but Raspberry Ketone ads appear to be part of an affiliate advertising ring based outside the UK. There is, therefore, a limit to what action we can take given that the individuals or businesses behind this product operate outside our jurisdiction."