The smokeless cigarettes offered by Direct E-Cig promise a nicotine punch without "offensive secondhand smoke," according to its web site. The Better Business Bureau says the company's "free" Internet offers end up costing customers unexpected credit card charges of $100 or more, because of cancellation policies that some customers say they never saw.

The BBB has awarded an "F" rating, its lowest, to the Naples, Fla.-based Direct E-Cig after receiving 360 complaints about the company, including six from Minnesota consumers. The company hasn't responded to about half of the complaints, which typically triggers a failing grade from the BBB. 

“Customer complaints against Direct E-Cig show a clear pattern of misrepresentation,” Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, said in a statement.

Someone in the Direct E-Cig call center told Whistleblower to send an e-mail Tuesday, and I'm still waiting on a response. Meanwhile, Direct E-Cig reportedly told the BBB that the cancellation process is spelled out on its web site.

Still, the BBB says,

Several consumers said they received direct email solicitations from the company and never saw the cancellation policy.

Even if consumers are dissatisfied with the product and follow the return policy exactly, it appears that the so-called free trial offer will end up costing them money. The website notes that Direct E-Cig charges $7.50 for each opened or missing cartridge and a $10 restocking fee on all returns.

The BBB also notes that the federal government has warned people about the health risks of electronic cigarettes, which deliver highly addictive nicotine just like old-fashioned smokes.

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