Trial offers are trouble: Watch out for teeth whiteners sold on the Internet

Lots of companies offer a trial period to buy something, leaving you with the impression that you can return it or stop using it if you don’t like it.

That’s not necessarily the case with some teeth whitening products purchased on the Internet. If you want white teeth and search for a phrase like “tooth whitening,” you’ll probably get pop-ups for trial offers.

Advertisements lure buyers with an offer of spending just a buck or two for a quick test, but some customers tell me they get charged a lot more.

As first reported in the Jan. 24, 2010 Dave Lieber column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Carol Rea of Grand Prairie says she bought a $1.99 trial of Smile Bright in October and another trial product for 99 cents. Unaware that she had to cancel within 10 days or she would be charged more, she was billed $700 before she repeatedly tried to cancel — unsuccessfully.

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Worse, the money was extracted from a government-issued debit card that provides her unemployment benefits. She says that she can’t get a full refund and that with the loss of $700, she may not be able to afford her health insurance payments.

Smile Bright’s customer service agents “have very little sympathy,” she says.

Because the cards don’t come with monthly statements, Rea didn’t realize for several weeks that the money had been gradually taken from the card.

“I noticed that starting in November, I wasn’t keeping track of my unemployment account as closely as I had been. I somehow always had less than I thought I should have,” she said.

The Watchdog tried to help Rea and Jeff Johnson, a Fort Worth teacher who paid $2.95 for an “amazing trial offer” — as the ad called it — for Premium White Pro. After the product arrived, he tried to cancel but was later dunned for $87.

Despite several hours of efforts, I couldn’t find executives from either company to speak with. And I believe that’s by design.

Johnson told me he believed that Premium White Pro is based in Colorado. When I called customer service for the product, an agent said the company is based in Des Moines, Iowa. When I couldn’t find it there, I called again and was told by another agent to write to the United Kingdom.

With Smile Bright, Rea was billed by five companies. When she contacted her bank to protest the charges, she says, “the bank claims department told me this was very common and had the contact phone numbers for all five accounts readily available.”

I called all the companies — Health Cleanse, World Fit, Teeth White, Body Pure and Smile Bright.

Most led back to a similar call center operated by First Support Solutions. The agents answer by saying “customer care.” But then they ask which toll-free number you used so they can tell which product you are calling about.

When I called Body Pure, a woman said: “This is a call center. I am a supervisor. We don’t have the corporate number. You can write a letter.”

When I called World Fit, I was told, “If you’re not the buyer yourself, basically, there’s no one you can speak with in regards to this.”

But finally, I found a helpful agent for Smile Bright. He told me his call center is in Provo, Utah.

The product consists of two mouthpieces and a gel or liquid that goes inside. The mouthpieces are worn a half-hour or an hour each day.

“Just like the stuff you get at the dentist, if you’ve ever done that,” he said.

“When a customer signs up, he is given 10 days as a trial period to use Smile Bright,” he said. “Once that 10 days is up, there is a home delivery plan, a subscription every month. In most cases, the charge is $92.37 per month.

“Before the 10-day trial ends, if you call and cancel, there won’t be any charges at all.”

Canceling after 10 days is more complicated. The contract terms, he said, are on the Web site, and a summary is posted near where credit card numbers are entered.

Rea has had trouble trying to return the products she received in the mail.

“Out of nine, 10 little boxes I have accumulated, they are allowing return of only three of them,” she says.

This isn’t uncommon. Here’s the BBB of Utah’s report on this company.

Many teeth-whitening Web sites aggressively push trial offers.

Try to close one advertising box and another pops up that says: “WAIT. Don’t leave yet!!!! Are you sure you don’t want to take advantage of this amazing Celebrity White Teeth Trial for only 99 cents? This is your last chance to help yourself have a beautiful illuminating smile.”

But it isn’t really the last chance.

When you close that box, another pops up: “Act now to receive your Trial for ONLY 99 CENTS. Why not give it a shot, and put yourself in a position to have more confidence?”

The Better Business Bureau warned last year about the deceptive trial offers and pointed out that ads for many of the whitening products show up on news sites. runs some of the ads.

Premium White Pro’s rating is buried in the BBB’s database under the company 1021018 Alberta Ltd. There are 1,797 complaints listed against the business in the last three years, with 375 cited as unresolved.

The BBB report lists 52 Web sites connected to the company, including, and

Smile Bright’s BBB report lists 430 complaints, with 253 listed as “failure to respond” and 70 more as unresolved.

In an Internet search, I found hundreds of postings by frustrated customers who believed that they were buying a trial period and ended up getting billed much more.

Doing a little research on the Internet before buying goes a long way in saving time, aggravation, money and embarrassment.

The idea is to make a person’s smile brighter, but many customers say smiling is the last thing that happens when they get ensnared.

What to watch for Before buying, read the fine print and check the company on Learn the cancellation policies.

Complain to the BBB if you believe that you lost money.

Learn about the teeth-whitening industry at, an industry-sponsored site.

Source: BBB


Here is a list of all the “sister” companies for PremiumProWhite, according to the Edmonton BBB:

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

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