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Dublin, 25th January 2018 – It’s the time of year when we’re signing up to all sorts of services, memberships, subscriptions, and free trial offers. However, the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland is urging consumers to make sure that their New Year resolutions involve reading the small print, to know what they’re getting into, and to watch out for automatic renewals.

Each year, ECC Ireland receives a number of complaints from consumers in relation to subscriptions with the main issues involving problems cancelling the service, being locked into rolling subscription contracts, overcharging, and ‘free trials’ or special offers that ended up costing far more. While many cases have involved dietary/health supplements and beauty products, the majority of complaints received over the past 12 months are in relation to some dating website services.

Press and Communications Manager for ECC Ireland, Martina Nee, said: ‘This is the time of year when we’re focused on New Year resolutions of finding love, getting fit, and trying new things which is great but it often involves rushing into signing up to memberships or subscriptions without doing enough research.

We’ve received complaints from consumers who don’t know how to cancel the contract or indeed, are not able to because they are locked into a rolling contract after failing to cancel in time before automatic renewal kicks in. There have been cases of overcharging, double charging, and consumers signing up for ‘free trials’ only to be charged for far larger amounts than expected. There are even consumers who were just curious but then found goods mysteriously arrive on their doorstop along with a demand for payment. There have also been some worrying cases of consumers who signed up to a dating website but when they tried to cancel they were told to pay or face a debt collector.

No matter what the service or membership, always fully read the terms and conditions to find out firstly who you are entering into a contract with, how the payment will be taken, how long the subscription/membership will last for and if you need to cancel, how do you do that. If the subscription is subject to automatic renewal then check what notice period has to be given, and in what format it should be. It’s also a good idea to set an alert on your phone that will remind you when to give notice of cancellation before the renewal date.

If it’s a ‘free trial’ or special offer, then before you enter your name and address check if doing so means that you’re now bound to a purchase or subscription. It should be clearly stated that by ordering a free trial package or accepting an offer then it will result in a binding subscription or other contract. Remember, you are not required to pay for or return a package that you have not ordered, it is up to the seller to prove that you have given your explicit consent, and if the seller withdraws money from your payment card without your consent then you can make a complaint to your bank/credit card provider and dispute a card transaction through chargeback.’

 

***ENDS***

 

Notes to Editor

Click here for the ECC Ireland subscription guidelines infographic.

In late 2017, the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net) issued a statement/report in relation to online subscription traps as well as a video.

 

ECC Ireland is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting consumers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is co-financed by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

 

For more information contact:

Martina Nee, ECC Ireland press and communications officer, (0)1 8797643 / (085) 8895333, or email mnee@eccireland.ie. ECC Ireland can also be found on Twitter @eccireland.