The price is high when you don't read the fine print on free trials

Consumers often pay the price for not reading the fine print in trial offers for a service, such as a gym membership, a book club, subscription services or travel clubs. Some may forget that it is their responsibility to cancel during the trial if they do not want the product or service.

Following these tips from the National Consumers League (NCL)-the nation's oldest consumer advocate-can help:

• Avoid trouble early. Potential problems can be avoided if the consumer checks out these details before agreeing to a trial offer: the terms and limitations of the trial offer; the length of the trial offer; and what action you need to take if you do not want to continue after the trial period is over.

Consumers should also make sure they have complete information on the service or product being offered, the costs, membership benefits and restrictions, payment options and the cancellation policy.

• Take responsibility. Generally, it is the responsibility of the consumer to contact the company and cancel the product or service before the trial period ends. Otherwise, they may be automatically billed for renewing the membership. NCL advises that consumers mark their calendars with the trial offer ending date and contact the company before that date.

• Save yourself a headache. Save information about the terms and conditions of all memberships. If you do decide to cancel the service, keep a note with the date and the name of the representative you dealt with.

• Stay on top of the deal. Review credit card or bank statements as soon as they are received or are available online. Banks should be contacted immediately if unauthorized charges are noted.

• Don't just let the service lapse. According to NCL President Linda Golodner, "Sometimes people let a trial offer lapse without canceling the product or service because they did not provide their billing information to the seller. The problem with this is that if they've done business with the company in the past, their account information may already be available. Consumers may be surprised with a charge once the trial offer ends and then have to take extra steps to resolve the problem."

For more information, visit or order the NCL's new brochure, which was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Vertrue Incorporated, by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to NCL, 1701 K Street, NW, Suite 1200, Washington, D.C. 20006.

When consumers decide to cancel a trial service, they should keep a note with the date and the name of the representative they spoke with.

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