NEW YORK — In case you needed any proof, a recent study published in the journal Obesity confirms that many of us have been eating more and exercising less since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
That means companies selling weight loss products are having a field day. One such company, Noom, has been gaining a lot of criticism from customers trying to get out of their free trial period. Fred Schultz is one of them.
"I'm not at work," Shultz said. "So I'm sitting around watching TV, thinking, 'gee, great time to lose 40 or 50 pounds.'"
Noom takes a "psychological" approach to weight loss. The app helps you create a personalized plan based on a questionnaire users fill out. Then they're paired with a diet coach. There's also a social platform where you can discuss your progress and challenges with other users.
But losing weight isn't the problem for many customers, it's what else suers are losing. Thousands of customers like Schultz have filed complaints, claiming they couldn't cancel the free trial, and instead were charged, in one case, $400.
"I do remember that I was looking at my watch, going, 'Wait a minute, I've been doing this for two and a half hours,'" Schultz said about trying to cancel his Noom trial. He said in total he spent, "probably 10 hours, 11 hours."
Other customers thought they'd only be billed $20 per month after the free trial, but were instead charged for several months upfront. The Better Business Bureau in New York, where Noom is based, has received so many complaints regarding the company over the last few years, they've given Noom a 'D' rating, and issued an alert for the company's failure to address the problems.
Noom has released a statement on the matter, which says, in part:
While the vast majority of users have had a positive experience... even a single bad experience is unacceptable. We are significantly expanding the size of our customer support team and the channels where customers can reach us.
Schultz ended up getting a refund, thanks to help from the Ohio Attorney General's Office, but he says he learned a lesson about weighing your options when it comes to free trials.
"When you sign up for anything, whether it's Zoom or Noom or anything else, it shouldn't take you four and a half days to get out of what took you only five mintues to get in," he said.
The BBB says it's continuously updating reports on companies like Noom, so you should check them often before doing business with anyone.