You’ve probably seen their advertisements online. If not, I put some examples to the left.
They all go by different names, like Everbrite, Celebrity Smile, Celebrity White Smile, Dentasmile MD, Idol White, Clean Whites, and many more. However, they have one thing in common. They lure the customer in with a “Free Teeth Whitening Trial.” Once you order, they start charging sometimes hundreds of dollars per month to keep sending you out a small supply of teeth whitening gel each month.
Fortunately, there is now a lawsuit against one of these companies known as Clean Whites. If you take a look at the Clean Whites website, you will see that they are no longer accepting new orders, but they do say that they are continuing to “serve” their existing customers. By “serve”, I assume they mean “charge their credit cards.”
If you don’t know how these companies work, I wrote about them a few weeks ago in an article called Yes, the $3 Online Teeth Whitening Offer Is a Scam.
What the Teeth Whitening Scam Lawsuit Means
Hopefully, with the filing of this lawsuit by the Florida Attorney General in the Broward County Circuit Court, there will be more publicity surrounding all of these similar teeth whitening scams.
The Florida Attorney General is asking for restitution to the Clean Whites customers that were ripped off. Also included in the lawsuit is an injunction that will prohibit the owners of Clean Whites from starting similar companies to take advantage of people who simply want a good deal on teeth whitening products.
Complaints accuse owners…of billing customers’ cards up to $90 a month, similar to the results of a state investigation of the company. The suit accuses the pair of using misleading advertising and deceptive trade practices, among other issues.
You may also wish to view a similar article from South Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper.
Hopefully this lawsuit will succeed and we will see a reduction in these teeth whitening companies.
Of course, a successful lawsuit won’t mean the end of all scams, but it will hopefully make a difference in the lives of a few people who otherwise would have been conned into signing up for an unwanted monthly subscription to a teeth whitening service.
Is it Really a Scam?
My original article on these scams got a comment recently that made me think about this issue. Here’s what Grant said:
Why do you call these sites a scam? People have eyes, they can read the screen. They know what they are buying. If they are dumb enough to think that the companies will just give away their product without making any money then they deserve what’s coming to them. Just a thought.
In my opinion, it is a scam. A scam is when people intentionally being ripped off. People who bought into the free trial of teeth whitening products simply wanted a good deal. After all, that’s what the advertisements promised. I’m sure nobody wanted to be billed a few hundred dollars for a “subscription activation” fee and hundreds of dollars a month to receive teeth whitening products.
In order to show that this is a scam, let’s compare this service with another service, cell phones. Let’s say someone walks by a cell phone kiosk in a mall and wants to get a new phone. They see an enticing advertisement that offers a “free” telephone with a two year service agreement. This makes sense to the customer because they know that in order to give away the phone, the cell phone company has to make up their loss in the form of subscription fees. It also costs them to provide mobile phone service to the customer.
The customer is satisfied paying a monthly fee because they know they are getting something of value each month. The cell phone companies even make this monthly fee very clear by forcing the customer to choose a monthly plan and compare and contrast the different plans.
However, with this teeth whitening scam, the companies deceive the customer by acting like they are simply giving away the teeth whitening gel and pretending to only need credit card information to pay for shipping and handling. In fine print, they do mention that they will be charging the customer hundreds of dollars each month. This is where the scam begins. Unlike the cell phone company, the teeth whitening companies are not offering a value to their customers. They are charging many times more than what the product is worth, hoping to snare a few customers into their trap.
Comparing Teeth Whitening Scams to a Subscription Fruit Model
How would you feel if you went to the grocery store to buy a peach. You pay with your credit card and sign the slip. You failed to notice that on the credit card slip, you were signing up to an peach subscription agreement. The agreement states that everyday for the next month, a peach will get delivered to your mailbox. The grocery store charges you $19.95 per delivery. Before you know it, you’ve racked up a $600 bill in a month’s time.
That grocery store would most likely face lawsuits and go out of business for their deceptive business practices.
This is exactly how these teeth whitening scams operate, and I think it’s unethical. Do you?