Texas State Agencies Should Use Caution in Accepting Free Trials

​With the ever increasing presence of the internet and email in our personal and business lives, there is a steady flow of email traffic offering "free trial" opportunities for various products and services.  So-called free trials may indeed offer agencies a valid no-cost no-commitment opportunity to test products and services, however Texas state agency employees also must be aware of the potential risk for themselves and their agency when the free trial terms and conditions are not appropriately understood and complied with. 

It is imperative with any free trial notice that the recipient understand that by clicking on any acceptance hyperlink there is a chance that there are potential products and/or services you may be agreeing to buy for extended periods of time.  Typically, there will be a "free trial period" which may extend for thirty to forty-five days, during which the recipient must provide the appropriate notice that future products or services are declined.  Should the notice be provided AFTER the expiration of the free trial period, there are terms and conditions that will be deemed to have been accepted, and a contractual obligation that may extend for years is imposed on the agency or recipient by the provider.  Some guidelines to follow with regard to free trial offers are:

  • Be certain you completely understand the terms and conditions underlying the free trial offer.  What is the free trial period?   
  • Be sure you understand what is required of you in terms of any notice of declining the offer and the timing of any cancellation
  • Be sensitive to any boxes you are required to check on or click, and the purpose and intent of these boxes
  • Be careful regarding any free trial offers that request or require a credit card number
  • Always be aware you can consult with your agency legal personnel regarding these offers and the consequences involved
  • Be sensitive to the fact that a free trial opportunity may or may not conflict with your agency's procurement practices, based on the potential financial liability posed by the expiration of the free trial period
  • Vendors may be prepared to enforce their free trial offers, even to the point of litigation.  Following these guidelines or consulting your legal department can preempt significant problems for you and your agency

Be very careful if you use free trials.