No one wants to be unsatisfied with a physical product after paying for it. For some consumers, a free-trial is a great way to test out a new product and get comfortable with it before making a purchasing decision. And with so many merchants offering free product trials, they’re becoming the new norm.
However, sometimes a free trial of a skincare or healthcare product can unwittingly turn into a recurring product subscription that is difficult to cancel. These situations can be frustrating and costly for both consumers and their banks.
At Mastercard, we want every commerce engagement to be simple, safe and secure and we are introducing rules for merchants that offer free-trials to make this a hassle-free experience for their consumers. The rule change will require merchants to gain cardholder approval at the conclusion of the trial before they start billing. To help cardholders with that decision, merchants will be required to send the cardholder – either by email or text – the transaction amount, payment date, merchant name along with explicit instructions on how to cancel a trial.
For each payment thereafter, the merchant will have to send a receipt to the cardholder for each transaction by email or text message with clear instructions on how to cancel the service if the consumer so desires. In addition, all charges that appear on the cardholder’s statement must now include the merchant website URL or the phone number of the store where the cardholder made the purchase.
Free trial offers can be a legitimate and useful way to increase sales and improve consumer satisfaction. The new rules will help in increase transparency and ensure an outstanding experience for cardholders. In addition to these changes, Mastercard cardholders are also covered by our Zero Liability policy which protects them against unauthorized purchases or charges. If a cardholder suspects that a transaction is fraudulent or unusual, we encourage them to contact the bank that issues their card for assistance and more information.
*This blog was updated on January 17, 2019 to clarify that the rule change is applicable to physical products such as skincare, healthcare items etc.