April 25th, 2018
TINA.org started seeing Facebook ads — lots of Facebook ads — for the contact lens startup’s “free” box after a reader alerted us to an Instagram ad that similarly failed to adequately disclose its link to the subscription service. We clicked on this one:
The Facebook ad took us to a page on Hubble’s website titled, “What Our Customers Are Saying About Their Hubble Contacts,” where there was talk of a subscription service (“I love that I can have my subscription set to deliver automatically or choose to delay the delivery a month. What a great toggling feature!” read a customer testimonial that sounded more like marketing speak than an actual review) but no clear indication of a direct link to the “free” box.
Moreover, the page did not say when subscribers are charged for the first month. The answer, according to an FAQ section linked at the bottom of the page, is “14 days after your initial free two week supply is shipped.” With another FAQ disclosing that shipping “normally takes between 5-10 business days,” it’s possible that unwitting Hubble subscribers receive the “free” box the same day their credit card is charged ($30) for the first month. (Yes, Alanis, that is ironic.)
Of course, if we had already made up our mind and didn’t need to hear what customers are saying about their Hubble contacts, we had the option to simply click “Get Your First Box Free” in the top-right corner of the page without scrolling down at all (see below). If we went that route, the only indication of the subscription service would have come via the words “every month” and “every 28 days” on the shipping and billing pages, respectively. Still, the amount next to those words was “$0.00.”
All eyes on ROSCA
When a negative-option offer like Hubble’s “free” box of contacts is part of a marketing pitch, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, or ROSCA, requires that advertisers “clearly and conspicuously disclose all material terms of a transaction before obtaining consumers’ billing information.” That would include when consumers can expect to be charged for the first month of the subscription.
Hubble did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The company, which claims to have sold $20 million worth of lens subscriptions according to Quartz, has also come under fire for reportedly failing to verify that all prescriptions entered on its site have been prescribed by actual doctors.
Find more of our coverage on eye care here.
Recurring offers or subscriptions that continue to bill you until you take steps to shut down the account. These types of offers put the onus on the consumer to remember and to take action, allowing a company to keep gathering in cash from forgetful or busy customers. Be wary of these types of offers, and remember to stop services you no longer want.