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Dublin, 13th February 2014 – The European Consumer Centre in Ireland is advising consumers to watch out for automatic renewal of memberships on dating websites. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many people may be thinking about joining a dating site. However, some memberships may be subject to automatic renewal – at further cost to the consumer.

Online dating is increasingly the norm for many people. Recent research indicates that 49 million people across Europe visit an online dating site at least once per month. While some dating sites are free to use, many charge consumers a fee in order to become a member for a certain period of time. For some sites, this may be renewed automatically unless the consumer explicitly cancels the contract before the end of the membership period.

ECC Ireland regularly receives complaints in relation to automatic renewals of online dating membership. Under EU law, so long as sufficient steps have been taken to clearly inform consumers that they are entering an automatically renewable contract, the charges are generally permissible.

In many cases, automatic renewals clauses are clearly outlined in the trader’s terms and conditions – to which the consumer agreed on signing up. However, in a number of complaints received by our office consumers found the offers to be misleading, with the relevant details hidden in the small print. In other cases, consumers who tried to cancel found it difficult, if not impossible, to do so.

ECC Ireland strongly advises consumers to read the terms and conditions before entering into an online contract or membership. Grace Duffy, Press and Communications Officer, says “For many consumers, it can be frustrating to realise that the terms they agreed to on signing up refer to automatic renewal. We encourage consumers to always familiarise themselves with a trader’s terms and conditions before purchasing an item or service online. EU legislation is in place to protect consumers from unfair commercial practices, but where the trader has clearly informed the consumer – e.g. by a notice on the website or in a confirmation e-mail – there may be no further recourse.”

If you have signed up to an online dating site and would like to cancel your membership, you should carefully read the terms and conditions attached and put your request in writing to the site as soon as possible.  For further advice and assistance, you can contact the European Consumer Centre in Ireland on (01) 8797 620 or consult www.eccireland.ie.

 

For more information, please contact Grace Duffy on (01) 8797641.

ECC Ireland can also be found on Twitter @eccireland.