Infomercials and Online Sales

How often have you seen infomercials with products that seem too good to be true? Not only that, but at great prices, too! Guess what. They are too good to be true, and unethical sellers are going to get you if you’re not careful.

Phony Guarantees

Many infomercials promise money back guarantees that seem to take the risk out of buying the product. But look at the fine print; the guarantee is often only 60 days. Get some detail on the guarantees and warranties before you buy.

Shipping and Handling Charges

In addition, the seller doesn’t’ tell you that you won’t get your shipping and handling money back if you take them up on their guarantee. And then, when you go to return the product, you have to pay return shipping yourself. Add these charges up and it may not be worth returning the product at all. And that is exactly what the infomercial seller is banking on. Shipping and handling charges can add up to a significant percentage of an infomercial purchase. While you think you are paying the actual cost of these, in fact the seller is marking them way up, turning shipping and handling charges into an independent profit source, and at the same time setting up significant barriers to you taking advantage of the so-called guarantee.


Almost all infomercial sellers make money by “upsells.” A typical upsell sounds like this: “If you think you just got a good deal now, you can do even better by upgrading to our other products!” You thought you were buying knives and the next thing you know, you’re buying a vacation! They make it hard to say no, with carefully scripted sales pitches that don’t allow for easy exits. What they don’t tell you is that you when you upgrade, you may still get the original product, and pay for shipping and handling twice. You think you are buying one product, and you end up with two, along with two shipping and handling charges. By the time you see all of this, it’s too late to cancel, and the cost of returning the goods is prohibitive.

Elder Abuse

These types of scams, particularly over the telephone, are especially hard on older adults. Older adults are more likely to answer the phone, and find it more difficult to cut the fast-talking seller off. Telemarketers know this and prey on these vulnerabilities. We believe that telemarketing directed towards older adults is a form of elder abuse. If this sounds familiar, do something about it! Contact the Better Business Bureau. Contact the Federal Trade Commission. Contact us. Just do something!

There Are Rules Against This

The Federal Trade Commission has specific rules for telemarketing and online sales. (You can see the telemarketing rules here and the online sales rules here.) We have been successful pursuing claims against telemarketers and online sales hucksters on the basis of these rules and California consumer protection law. If you feel you have been duped, give us a call. We can help.

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