Preying on Smokers Who Want to Quit

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is suing NextClick Media, Inc., an Internet advertising company, over Web sites they operate that offered "free 10-day trials" of an herbal stop-smoking patch called "Nicocure," "Stop Smoking 180" and "Zero Nicotine." The sites claimed the product worked better than nicotine patches and had a "97% success rate." People who signed up for the "free trial" got a 30-day supply instead of a 10-day supply, then were told they had to pay for all 30 days if they chose to keep it. If they returned the product, they were assessed a $7.95 restocking fee. People who agreed to the "free trial" also found themselves enrolled in a "continuity program" that automatically billed their credit or debit card a monthly charge of up to $99.95 until they canceled. Customers found contacting the company to get out of the arrangement nearly impossible. None of the costly terms of the "free trial" were disclosed on the company's Web sites. After the FTC sued the company, NextClick agreed to halt its deceptive practices.