VideoBlocks.com just sent an email ad to Graphic Design USA magazine subscribers on Mar 27, 2013. It violates FTC rules as the supposedly "Completely Free Trial" includes negative billing options that are neither disclosed on the same page as the ad or the sign up page on their website. Negative billing options means the consumer must cancel and/or opt out during the trial if they do not want to be charged. This type of promotion is deceptive when advertisers such as VideoBlocks do not openly disclose their billing practices or cancellation policy in the ad, but instead boldly emphasize "Completely Free" and "No Obligation". They bury the fine print elsewhere on their website or among several pages so it is difficult or impossible for the consumer to be fully aware of the negative requirements to avoid billing. By hiding the cancellation procedure which must occur during the trial period, consumers are automatically billed a monthly subscription fee of $50. [continued below]....
..... Some do not notice the charge for several months and when they complain to VideoBlocks are scolded for being ignorant of the cancellation requirements, lazy for not canceling soon enough, and foolish for not reading the fine print. The company pretends they made every effort to disclose the cancellation requirements and places the shame and burden on the gullible consumer. Should the consumer argue the terms were hidden, VideoBlocks will still charge the customer if there was any activity on the account after the trial period regardless of downloading files or not. Like many deceptive advertisers using the Free Trial scam, VideoBlocks obtains the customers credit card information immediately on sign up despite their ads and website claim the offer is "Completely Free" and there is "No Obligation". The added layer of deception is that VideoBlocks convinces the consumer the credit card information is only needed to verify identity and to limit number of free trials given. As a matter of fact, the credit card information is primarily obtained to bill the consumer.
In 2011, NikkiJones, responded to several complaints about VideoBlocks posted on many different forums on the Internet. She claimed she was VideoBlocks' new customer support manager in charge of handling such complaints. She apologized to the complainants and offered refunds in her public responses, saying the company was diligently working to make the cancellation policy more clear. In 2013, however, VideoBlocks is still running the same ads with no apparent changes. Neither the ad sent out by Graphic Design USA this week or the current VideoBlocks website disclose the cancellation requirement on the same page as the supposedly "Completely Free Trial" with "No Obligation".
FTC rules also require advertisers to allow a 10 day period from the time of billing for customers to dispute unintended purchases. In contrast, VideoBlocks only allows customers to cancel within the 7-day trial period. If you call to cancel within 10 days of the first billing, VideoBlocks cancels your account starting with their next billing cycle but will not refund the $50 they already charged, even when the consumer did not use the service after the 7-day trial and did not intend to subscribe afterward.
Despite the FTC violations, there exist some internet posts by users seemingly happy with VideoBlock's service and blaming the multitude of unhappy customers for their own ignorance or not being savvy enough to read the fine print, or unable to exploit the free trial without being charged. It is important to note that VideoBlocks, while not an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau, has an F-rating with the BBB, mostly for credit card billing complaints.
Despite the complaints, magazine and website publishers continue to run ads by VideoBlocks, which is owned by FootageFirm, a major supplier of stock film footage to Fortune 500 firms, large ad agencies and production companies. These ads are sent to the publishers' own readers resulting in unhappy customers among their own readership who believe the ads and VideoBlocks would not be deceptive when received from a source they already trust within the industry. Publishers should take note whether they are complicit in violating FTC rules when there are so many existing complaints against an advertiser that can easily be found with the most routine Internet search.