The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about Noom, a popular weight loss app. According to the BBB serving the metro New York area where Noom is based, they have received more than 1,200 complaints in the last year and over 2,000 since July 2017. Consumers have complained about misleading free trials and having difficulty canceling their subscriptions after the free trial has expired.
“Many stay-at-home consumers are looking for options that can help them achieve their health and wellness goals during this pandemic time,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of BBB serving Metropolitan New York. “Smartphone applications and online programs may seem convenient – especially when coupled with attractive free trial offers – but consumers must always be cautious when shopping for a weight loss service.
BBB reports that consumers have tried to cancel their two-week trial offer for the weight loss app before it ends, but the consumer is often billed for the subscription anyway. Noom members said they believed the cost of the monthly membership ranged between $20 and $40 per month, but in some cases, they were charged for months up front, ranging from $120 to $180. When consumers couldn’t get Noom to refund the charges, consumers turned to BBB.
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A visit to the Noom website does not reveal the cost of the subscription, and the site’s FAQs are not accessible without signing in. We did, however, get this pop-up after choosing “English” as our language. We clicked continue, but still couldn’t access succinct subscription information – only the two-week free trial offer.
In an article on the company’s website, Noom offers a confusing mix of offerings.
“We use a variety of factors to pick a bundle that we think would be appealing to a user and suggest it to them. A lot of it is based around how long we think it will take them to achieve the health outcome of what they’re trying to work on,” said Noom cofounder Artem Petakov. “It is a product that’s somewhat episodic in nature; it’s not like a subscription you have ongoing forever.”
On the Noom.com website, the privately-held company boasts of its success. According to Noom, their revenue is $237 million, though they don’t specify the period. That data is presumably for 2019. In 2018, they company generated $61 million and, in 2017, $12 million. The weight loss app has been downloaded 50 million times. The company also said that in 2019, Noom ranked 23rd in the App Store amount health and fitness apps and was rated 3.9 out of 5 stars in the Google Play store.
BBB drops Noom’s rating to D
Because of the high volume of complaints against the weight loss app and Noom’s failure to satisfactorily resolve the complaints, BBB has given Noom a D rating, and it has noted a “pattern of complaint” on the Noom page on the BBB.org website.
BBB tips to educate consumers
BBB also offers these tips to help consumers evaluate weight loss services like Noom.
- Be cautious of free trials, and make sure you understand all terms and conditions before signing up. Watch for automatic renewal, especially if you’ve provided credit card details up front.
- Identify your fitness goals and find a program that fits your goals and seems reasonable.
- Be wary of claims that seem too good to be true and of customer testimonials. The CDC recommends weight loss of no more than one to two pounds per week.
- Report any concerns for weight loss programs or products that seem deceptive or as if they are overpromising results.
- Research the company with BBB.org before making a purchase.
They also offer this April 21, 2020 blog post on free trial offer scams.
Unfortunately, this is a pattern of behavior we’ve seen among some subscription companies, including Adore Me, Kate Hudson’s Fabletics and eHarmony with free trial complaints or difficulty with cancellations. Consumers should be wary of any claims that sound too good to be true, but subscription companies have a legal and ethical responsibility too. They need to post their terms and conditions clearly and conspicuously, so subscribers and prospective subscribers know exactly what they are agreeing to. We are curious to see how Noom will rectify this issue or if it will take a class action lawsuit to force them into correcting the problem.