Consumer alert: Advocates warn of free trial offers for cannabis products

ByRandall Yip KGO logo
Friday, July 19, 2019
Trial offers not always free
"All I saw was free, free, free. And so I thought, oh, I'll give it a try, to see if it works." One Sonoma woman found out the hard way that free trials aren't always free.

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- Consumer advocates have long warned about free trial offers for diet, beauty and anti-aging products. You can now add another category to that list: cannabis products. Here's a 7 On Your Side consumer alert.

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we often seek easy solutions to nagging problems. Unfortunately that quest for answers sometimes can lead to a path of trouble.

Lynette Thompson of Sonoma turns to meditation to ease the pain from her pinched nerves and herniated disc. The condition causes pain in many parts of her body.

"My neck, back, shoulders, elbows, hands," she says.

Thompson began receiving trial offers like this one for free cannabis products: Pro Canna Herba CBD Formula.

Rush my trial, said one offer. Claim your trial today, said another.

She just had to agree to pay for shipping and the trial would supposedly be free.

When she called to place her order, she also agreed to accept another trial for a similar cannabis product for night use. "All I saw was free, free, free. And so I thought, oh, I'll give it a try, to see if it works," she said.

Thompson received instructions to place the CBD oil under her tongue to take away her pain and anxiety.

She said it didn't work. "I still had the same amount of pain and anxiety. It didn't do anything at all."

Shortly after deciding this wasn't for her, she noticed something on her credit statement. Two charges for close to $90 each.

"I was blown away. I couldn't believe the price and they charged me. I couldn't understand," Thompson said.

She called the company and it told her she had to cancel within two weeks, or she would be put on a monthly subscription plan with automatic billing and shipments.

We showed one of the ads, which included a Better Business Bureau logo, to the local BBB.

Benjamin Yee of the BBB called the use of the logo illegal. "You have a trust mark with the Better Business Bureau, which has no association obviously with this product," Yee said. He says he's seen a 43 percent increase in complaints to the FBI about trial offers in two years.

A great many of them are about offers for cannabis products.

"There has been quite a bit of uptick that we have been seeing. We took a look at scam tracker. We are seeing customer complaints over that. That has been a lot of discussions in the FTC as well as the FDA," Yee pointed out.

We contacted a number we thought would connect us to Pro Canna. Instead we reached a call center which told us Pro Canna was no longer in business.

A call center rep refused to give us the name of his company. He did show us a terms and condition agreement he said was similar to the one offered by Pro Canna.

Thompson, like so many consumers, said she doesn't recall ever seeing or reading it.

"It's lengthy and I don't want to read all of it. So I just, I see some small print and I don't read it," she said.

The fulfillment center sent Thompson a voucher for $100 and a check for $60 after being contacted by 7 On Your Side.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.