The European Consumer Centre in Ireland is advising consumers to be mindful of automatic renewal practices on dating websites.
It’s not long to go until Valentine’s Day and many love-seeking consumers are now signing up to dating websites, maybe in a rush, and not properly reading the terms and conditions. ECC Ireland would like to remind consumers to take their time and do thorough research before signing up. We receive a number of complaints every year from consumers who have signed up to dating websites but, after a few months have flown by, they forget about the automatic renewal of the membership and they find themselves locked into another year’s subscription.
Fall in love but don’t fall into a trap…
Here’s what to do in order to avoid long contracts you did not intend to enter into or subscriptions that renew automatically:
- Double check the Terms & Conditions when signing up to any contract online. When you shop online you have the right to a cooling-off period of 14 days where you can withdraw from a distance contract without having to specify a reason. However there are some exceptions: you cannot avail of the cooling-off period once a service contract has been fully performed (e.g. you already have access to online dating profiles and can contact them) and you lose the right to withdraw if you’ve already started using the service after giving your express consent with the knowledge that you’ll lose the right to withdraw.
- Pay particular attention to the cancellation and automatic renewal policies. Look for what to do if you want to cancel. The more complicated the procedure for cancelling, the more wary you should be. In some cases, membership is renewed automatically unless the consumer explicitly cancels within a certain period. This practice is outlined in the website’s Terms & Conditions. 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. As the consumer is asked to agree to these at the time of joining the site it can be difficult to seek further redress if you have ticked the box.
- There might be a free trial period so you need to know when that starts and ends. As with all ‘free trials’, many dating website memberships have an opt-out system for subscription cancellation. If you forget to do this in time, you’ll then find yourself trapped into a rolling contract. The renewal process should be clearly outlined in the Terms & Conditions.
- Next, check the duration of the membership contract. Most importantly, when it comes to subscriptions of any kind, check if the membership is subject to automatic renewal, when this starts, and when you need to cancel to avoid paying for another year. If your membership is up for renewal and you wish to cancel follow the instructions in the website’s Terms & Conditions. Usually, it’s best to contact the trader in writing as soon as possible and inform the trader clearly that you wish to cancel before renewal starts.
- Keep copies of all correspondence or take screenshots as proof of cancellation request. Save a copy of the confirmation, the contract, and all correspondence with the trader in case you need to make a complaint.