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Watchdog Says Free Samples Aren't Free

Many Internet agencies that offer free samples are collecting a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing, according to a German consumer watchdog. The agencies, such as Probenking, Probenexpress, Probenmax, Probendino and Probenfieber, promise to provide customers with sample products but require payment first, the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center says. The Website Probenwelt.de, for example, charges €23,97 ($26,84) for "up to" 90 free samples and vouchers within three months. Testers, however, say they had received just nine samples after 12 weeks -- hardly worth nearly €24. The consumer watchdog says that complaints are pointless -- according to the small-print, the agencies only guarantee that your name will be added to company databases. They don't guarantee you'll ever actually receive the free samples.