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Scam Central

Beware of 'Free' Offer for Smokeless Cigarettes

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April 11, 2011 | 3,673 views | 2 comments

‘Free’ Offer for Smokeless Cigarettes Turned Into a Real Drag, Consumers Tell BBB

Austin, TX -- Consumers who tried to take advantage of “free” Internet offers for smokeless cigarettes say they were burned by unexpected charges that totaled $100 or more, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.

Consumers from 45 states have filed more than 400 complaints against Direct E-Cig of Naples, Fla., and London, England, in the last year. Texas has the second highest number of complaints, with 29 recently affected consumers*.

“With over 170 unanswered complaints, there is a significant and ongoing pattern of problems with Direct E-Cig,” Carrie Hurt, BBB President and CEO, explains. “In most cases, consumers say they ordered what they thought was a free starter kit, only to find out later that the company billed their credit cards for $100, $200, or more. The cigarettes may be smokeless, but there is no question that a lot of customers felt they were watching their hard-earned dollars go up in smoke.”

On its website, Direct E-Cig calls its product “a revolutionary electronic smoking device designed as a great smoking alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes.” The site says smokers can smoke “virtually anywhere, without the flame, ash, tar or carbon monoxide.”

Direct E-Cig is among several distributors of smokeless cigarettes. Other companies also offer free or discounted starter kits and then bill customers for the full price or enroll them in an ongoing program to receive cartridge refills and other products.

In response to some of the complaints, Direct E-Cig told BBB its website notes that consumers must go through a cancellation process within 15 days “to avoid being billed the full price of the kit of $109.95 and future monthly shipments.” Several consumers said they received direct email solicitations from the company and never saw the cancellation policy.

Even if consumers are dissatisfied with the product and follow the return policy exactly, it appears that the so-called free trial offer will end up costing them money. The website notes that Direct E-Cig charges $7.50 for each opened or missing cartridge and a $10 restocking fee on all returns.

A woman from Austin, TX said she found the product for her daughter based on an advertisement sent to her email address. Before ordering the free trial, she says she “read verycarefully through everything” and she believed she was not entering into a contract that would require any payment. She received the cigarette product within a week, but explains that another company, called Prado, suddenly sent her refill cartridges and charged her account $109.95 for them. “They sent three boxes of refill” that she explains she did not want and could not use because they were too strong. She said she called the company immediately and was told that it was already too late to cancel her order. After working directly with her bank, she was able to get her money back but remains concerned about the advertising offers she still receives from the refill company that has her financial information.

A woman from Cibolo, TX saw the offer online for a free trial and filled out information to get one of the smokeless cigarettes delivered to her home. Her husband reported to BBB that they were billed over $100 for the cigarette before the 15-day free trial was over. He contacted the company many times, but was frustrated by the company’s refusal to help him. He explained that he still has not been able to get a refund and felt he had to “change [his] debit account number” to prevent the company from charging any additional items. “I think they need to be stopped,” he complained.

The highest number of complaints about Direct E-Cig have come from California (32 complaints), Texas (29), New York (28), Florida (27), Illinois (26) and Pennsylvania (24).

A warning in small print on the Direct E-Cig website notes that “This product contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance. It has not been approved by the FDA as a smoke cessation device.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes. The FDA has said the products can increase nicotine addiction among young people and may lead them to try other tobacco products including conventional cigarettes.

Check out the current BBB Business Review for Direct E-Cig here. BBB offers the following advice for consumers who are considering taking advantage of free or low-cost trial offers for smokeless cigarettes or other products:

Always research a business offering you a free-trial to find out if other consumers had any problems with the agreement. Check out BBB Business Reviews by going to

Understand the terms and conditions of the trial period and end date.

Look for a privacy policy or indication of whether or not your contact information will be supplied to Other Businesses. Understand that in some cases, these companies plan to supply your contact information to other businesses as a revenue opportunity.

Keep a copy of your trial registration and the cancellation policy.

* Local consumers available for interview upon request

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit BBB.

About Better Business Bureau:
BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by creating a community of trustworthy businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting best practices, celebrating marketplace role models and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.

Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization's high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB is the preeminent resource to turn to for objective, unbiased information on businesses and charities.

Your Opinions and Comments

Justin Smith  
April 12, 2011 12:50am
You guys rock! I am so glad to see articles being written about this subject. I was reading The Vapor Revolution the other day and the author of that site was writing about the same topic. Making the point that all the dirt... More ›

Ted Kendall  
Detroit, Michigan, MI  
April 11, 2011 4:02pm
I was ripped off by this company and had no idea where to go. Through research I found this website It has a lot of information from commenters on how to get your money back if you were scammed by this... More ›

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