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Dublin, 12th February 2015 – The European Consumer Centre in Ireland is advising consumers to be mindful of automatic renewal practices on dating websites. As Valentine’s Day approaches, the Centre has seen a slight increase in the number of complaints relating to renewal of memberships on these websites.

While many dating websites offer services for free, some charge fees for membership – ranging from a few weeks or months to yearly subscriptions. In some cases, this membership is renewed automatically unless the consumer explicitly cancels within a certain period. This can lead to frustration for some consumers if they did not realise they had to opt out before the renewal date.

ECC Ireland receives frequent complaints from consumers whose membership of a dating site has been automatically renewed. In many cases, this practice is clearly outlined in the website’s terms and conditions. As the consumer would have agreed to these at the time of joining the site, it can be difficult to seek further redress. The practice is permissible so long as the trader has taken sufficient steps to inform consumers that the contract entered into is subject to automatic renewal. The deadline by which the consumer must indicate his or her intention not to renew the contract must not be unreasonably early.

In 2014, 20% of all complaints relating to online dating websites were reported in January and February. To avoid being caught out, consumers are strongly advised to read the terms and conditions before signing up with a dating site. Regard should also be had to any small print in promotional or information materials.

As of June 2014, consumers can avail of a 14-day “cooling off” period during which they can withdraw from a distance contract without having to specify a reason. If they wish to begin using the service within this 14-day period, they must make an express request to the trader.

If looking to cancel membership of a dating site, consult the website’s terms and follow the recommended steps carefully and in good time. Consumers are advised to retain copies of any correspondence or take screenshots of the process so as to have a record of their cancellation request. If consumers feel they have followed the necessary instructions to cancel but have been charged anyway, they can contact our office for further advice and assistance.

 

For more information or media queries, please contact Grace Duffy on (01) 8797 641 or e-mail gduffy@eccireland.ie. An interview clip on this topic can be downloaded here.

ECC Ireland can also be found on Twitter.