FTC Charges ‘Free’ Sample Marketer

A company offered free samples to consumers, but later debited their billing accounts without authorization, the Federal Trade Commission said last week.

The FTC filed a civil complaint against Conversion Marketing, Santa Ana, CA, and its owner, Adam Tyler MacDonald. He started his operation as Test Marketing Group at some point before November 2003 and offered free trial samples of Fast White, a teeth-whitening kit, at no obligation via outbound calling, according to the FTC.

His firm then billed Fast White customers and enrolled them in a continuity program without authorization and without informing them that it had obtained their billing information in advance, the FTC said. However, Test Marketing Group subsequently went bankrupt and transferred its operations to Conversion Marketing.

Conversion used outbound calls as well as radio, Internet and television ads to market the Pounds-Off Patch, a weight-loss product, the FTC said. During the calls, Conversion offered free samples of the patch if consumers participated in a “study” and paid shipping costs. The company also obtained consumer billing information, the FTC said. It then made unauthorized charges and improperly placed consumers in a continuity program, according to the FTC.

The FTC also filed a complaint against David Sharp and his company, Drsharp, North Salt Lake, UT. Sharp aided in the operation by selling products to MacDonald, handling product fulfillment and providing some telephone customer service for Fast White customers, the FTC said.

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