Don’t get taken by a supplies surprise
It’s great getting stuff for a deal or as a free sample. But when a seller says something is cheap or free, then sends you a whopping bill, that’s not so great — and it’s against the law.
In three unrelated cases, the FTC sued Kleritec, Lighting X-Change and Omni Services, for allegedly duping organizations — including schools, churches, nonprofits, and small businesses — out of millions. How? By charging them for merchandise they didn’t order, or at a price much higher than they promised.
According to the FTC, both Kleritec and Lighting X-Change have a similar story: they offered free samples or inexpensive supplies, followed by high-priced invoices, more shipments (of unordered supplies), and more invoices. And then, when companies refused to pay, came the bullying tactics to try to force the company to pay up.
The FTC says Omni called churches, schools and businesses and deceptively claimed to be offering sale or clearance prices, but used vague language about price and quantity. In fact, the FTC says Omni sent large shipments at high prices, used pressure tactics to collect, and then sometimes sent more unordered shipments.
Have you gotten stuff you didn’t order? Here’s what the law says: you don’t have to pay for it…and you can keep it if you’d like. Here are some finer points:
- If you want to let the vendor know that you’re keeping the merchandise, fine, but you don’t have to.
- Be cautious about goods advertised with “free trials," or at unusually low prices. Read the fine print. Are you joining a "club" that requires you to make regular purchases?
- File a complaint with the FTC if you were told to pay for items you didn’t order.