You may have encountered advertisements for free Internet service trial periods.  Sometimes, these offers may come in the form of CD-ROMs sent to you in the mail. They may promise hundreds of hours of free service. However, these "free" offers may end up costing you a lot in the long run. There are restrictions and conditions that are often placed on these offers that are hard to discover. 

What Should I Look out For?

Many of these offers for free service are only valid for one month. When that month is over, you may be automatically signed up for the internet provider’s service (unless you cancel before the end of the month). However, some providers may not tell you how to cancel or that you have to cancel to avoid being signed up. Also, you may end up paying more if the internet service provider does not have a local phone number for you to dial into. You would then have to pay long distance fees to get internet access.   

What Can I Do to Avoid Such Costs?

To avoid such a situation, there are some things that you should find out about the internet service before signing on:

  • Cancellation: Is there a way to cancel the service?
  • Length of the free offer: How long does the free access last?
  • Billing date: If you do sign up for internet service, when is your billing date?
  • Local phone number access: Can you access the internet through a local phone number rather than a long distance number?
  • Start of service: When does the one month of free service start?
  • Cancellation notice: Will you receive verification if you cancel your service?
  • Automatic subscription: Are you automatically subscribed to the internet service after the free month?
  • Length of commitment: If you do sign up, do you have to commit to the service for a year or longer?

You should ask these questions before signing up for an internet service offer. If you believe you have been a victim of any misrepresentations, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with Internet Service Offers?

You should inform yourself about the internet service provider. A consumer lawyer can help you determine whether or not you have been misled by an internet service offer. A lawyer can also help you in dealing with the FTC or any other government body you may wish to file a complaint with.