Expensive "Free" Samples

Objective :

  • To present the domains that are governed by Québec laws in effect;
  • To present the recourse options available to consumers and merchants to assert their rights.

Description :

After listening to a conversation between a consumer protection officer and a consumer who ordered free samples online, students answer questions about online purchases.

Equipment :

Introduction :

To begin this activity, the teacher has the students listen to the audio file of the situation simulation (length: 2 minutes 45 seconds). In this scenario, Vincent, a consumer, contacts the Office de la protection du consommateur because he has a problem: he ordered free samples online that are now charged to him every month.

If the teacher cannot play the audio file, he or she can read the print version of the situation simulation. Two students could also read the text, where one students plays the role of the consumer, and the other plays the consumer protection officer (CPO).

Once the students have listened to or read the situation simulation, the teacher asks them to read the online text titled Expensive "Free" Samples. This text warns consumers against free sample product offers. It also informs them about their rights and recourse options.

Instructions :

Using the online text titled Expensive "Free" Samples and the pages to which links are provided, students, either on their own or in teams, answer the questions presented in the student worksheet.

In a full-group session, the teacher goes over the exercise, referring to the answer key.

Conclusion :

To conclude the activity, the teacher can ask the students whether they, or anyone they know, have ever ordered these types of free samples online. The teacher then gives the floor to the students who want to share their experiences.

The teacher then asks the students what warnings they could give to someone they know who may be tempted by an online free sample offer, as Vincent was.

The following points should be highlighted in the discussion:

  • Offers that appear too good to be true often are... It is best to exercise caution when faced with enticing offers made online or on social media.
  • Algorithms are designed to present consumers with offers they are likely to find attractive. Targeted offers we receive must be met with a critical eye.
  • If a credit card number is requested, this means the offer is not free. This is also a sign that the consumer could be charged certain amounts at a later date.
  • It is very important to carefully read the offer and the contract before giving out a credit card number.
  • In certain situations, deadlines to cancel an online purchase can be very short. Consumers must always remain vigilant.
  • Despite the laws that exist to protect consumers and the recourse options that are available to them, cancelling this type of purchase is not necessarily easy. Consumers must therefore be sure about their purchase before committing to it.

Additional resources