April 27, 2011
We have been informed once again of a free electronic cigarette scam circulating in city centres across the country and also appearing on websites. Every few months, the so-called Risk ‘free e-cigarette trial’ re-surfaces and unsuspecting people are scammed into signing up to an expensive monthly contract for refills.
The setup of the scam
The city/town centre tactic involves the rogue company hiring a temporary stand or stall at a busy shopping centre draped with Free E-Cigarette advertisements designed to catch the eye of shoppers. Two or three promotional staff operating the display will be smoking an e-cigarette hoping to draw attention from passers-by before launching into the convincing sales pitch for a free electronic cigarette. The promotional staff will often make illegal medical claims that the electronic cigarette is a quit smoking product.
Scam websites operate with the same principle. After a few months the website closes down only to re-open using a different name. Many scam websites are owned by individuals or companies located outside of the country and they hire a virtual call centre and packing company with a physical UK address to falsely assure customers they are dealing with a business in the UK.
So what’s the scam?
At the stall, a promotion agent will say that they are not permitted to sell e-cigarettes from the stall and for a limited time you can get one by signing up for a free e-cigarette trial offer. The agent may or may not mention a delivery charge and will quickly divert your attention away from the small print in the contract stating you agree to pay the full price of the kit and pay a direct debit for refills should you fail to cancel the trial and return the e-cigarette kit. The first payment taken is a non-refundable delivery charge. When you attempt to cancel your trial, the company claims to have not received your cancellation in time and issues a second charge for the starter kit and starts the cycle of billing you every month for refills. Starter kits and the old fashioned refills promoted this way tend to be of extremely low quality and are vastly overpriced. Some customers have been continually debited for refills even after cancelling the trial.
Here are some of the real costs we have come across for the Risk ‘Free E-Cigarette Trials’.
- Delivery and Admin Charge: £9.99 (non-refundable).
- Starter Kit + Refills: £59.99 (Standard USB Kit)
- Monthly Refills: £60.00 (30 cartridges 0.2ml)
The company we found do not even supply cartomizers! The ‘Monthly’ supply of low quality cartridges would be lucky to last 7 days…
Just over a year ago, we personally witnessed one of these E-Cigarette Trials operating in our town. Within one hour, twelve people or so had handed over their bank details. We took the opportunity and posed as customers to see the sales pitch in action. We were shocked at the blatant lies the sales agents told to close a deal and needless to say, we didn’t take up the offer. The stand closed down 48 hours later, moving from town to town never staying longer than a few days in the same area.
Avoiding the scam and bad deals
- Do not sign up to any ‘Risk Free E-Cigarette Trial’
- Do not sign up to a Refills Contract, Membership or Club
- Watch for false health claims
- Check for outrageously high priced starter kits and refills
- Avoid automatic credit card withdrawals and direct debit
- Avoid companies making claims of acceptance by the FDA or MHRA
- Buy from a registered company with a physical address
If you’ve been caught out by a ‘free e-cigarette trial’, please e-mail us with your story.
We are unable to say if all electronic cigarette promotions are a scam, but we have yet to hear of a genuine one or know of a reputable company providing a free e-cigarette.
At VIP Electronic Cigarette, you pay only for what you order from our online shop or over the phone. There is no contract, no monthly rebilling and no membership. To order a Starter Kit, simple choose an electronic cigarette from our store and pay. Check our Facebook page and you can see what genuine customers are saying about our e-cigarette.