The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) is calling on consumers to think twice before falling for misleading adverts offering free trials or cheap deals as they could end up locked into a subscription trap or paying for unwanted goods.

With online shopping increasing, European consumers are being exposed more and more to intrusive and sometimes misleading adverts. These enticing ads, which can appear on social media and as pop-ups, lure consumers into making impulse purchases or receiving unsolicited goods. However, if a consumer has found himself/herself bound to an offer without giving explicit consent the deal can be considered misleading and not binding, and so, it is important that consumers actively reject these imposed so-called deals.

3.5m EU consumers caught by subscription trap

A recent ECC-Net report found that over the last three years 3.5 million consumers in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria accepted an offer online, via a website, or on social media that led to a subscription trap. The survey, conducted by Sifo Kantar and commissioned by ECC Sweden and the Swedish Consumer Agency, also found that consumers have limited knowledge of their rights and don’t know what to do when they end up with unwanted goods or are locked into a subscription trap. In particular, the consumers surveyed lacked knowledge about the right of withdrawal (14 day cooling off period) and the availability of a chargeback scheme offered by their bank if the transaction is made with their credit card.

Tips on how to avoid an online trap

  • Before typing in your name and address, you should check if you will be bound by a purchase or a subscription;
  • It must be clearly stated that by ordering a trial package or accepting an offer that it will result in a binding subscription or other contract;
  • You are not required to pay for or return a package that you have not ordered;
  • It is the seller who has to prove that you have given your explicit consent to make a purchase or enter a contract;
  • If the seller withdraws money on a payment card without your consent, you can complain to your bank and request a chargeback.


Watch the ECC-Net subscription trap video below