CHICAGO (CN) - An e-cigarette vendor defrauds Internet shoppers by offering a "free trial" starter kit for just $4.95 in shipping, then rings up $100 on their credit card and keeps billing them every month, a class action claims.
Lead plaintiff Jean-Francois Patterson sued Vapor Corp. and Global Vapor Partners in Cook County Court.
"Defendants Vapor Corp. and GVP are just two of a plethora of companies vying for the attention and money of smokers who are seeking out e-cigarettes as an alternative to traditional tobacco products," the complaint states.
Through various websites, Vapor Corp. offers "starter kits" of e-cigarettes, which it claims are worth nearly $100, for the price of shipping: $4.95, Patterson claims.
"Vapor Corp. and GVP fail to clearly and conspicuously disclose to consumers - who are eager to receive their free trial of e-cigarettes - that 14 days following the transaction (in which consumers only pay $4.95 for shipping and handling) they will then charge consumers' credit and debit cards over $100.
"If the initial charge wasn't bad enough, defendants also enroll consumers in a monthly club and tack on additional, reoccurring monthly charges for Vapor Corp.'s products without disclosing to consumers - in any readily recognizable fashion - that this charge will be imposed," according to the complaint.
Vapor Corp. states on its website that it owns the e-cigarette brands Smoker 51, Krave, Green Puffer, VaporX, and EZ-Smoker.
Patterson claims: "Vapor Corp. and GVP are careful to bury mention of the initial trial charges or the monthly charges in the Terms & Conditions, which never appear on the same page as the free trial offer. Defendants also obscure mention of these fees through the use of flashy graphics and misleading statements that tell consumers that they 'just pay shipping and handling' and that the 'Total' price for starter kit is '0.00' with a shipping and handling fee of '4.95.'
Even if consumers return the starter kit within 14 days, Vapor Corp. charges a $10 restocking fee and gives no refund for the e-cigarette cartridges, "meaning that under no circumstance is the cost of the starter kit ever '$0.00,'" according to the lawsuit.
The Better Business Bureau website, checked this morning, gave Vapor Corp. an F rating, citing numerous complaints against it.
Patterson seeks class damages for fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
He is represented by Jay Edelson.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.