Trading Standards and Citizens Advice urge residents to be careful what they sign up for
27 November 2017Cheshire West Trading Standards and Citizens Advice Cheshire West are warning people about getting stuck with subscriptions after new research reveals people are wasting hundreds of pounds on them when they’re no longer wanted.
Analysis of 500 cases reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service between June and August 2017 finds people lost an average of £160 from subscriptions they wanted to cancel, but weren’t able to.
Cheshire West Trading Standards and Citizens Advice Cheshire West are now sharing tips on how to avoid getting tied into a subscription and will be taking part in National Consumer Week - a campaign to help people understand their consumer rights which launched on Monday 27 November.
The analysis from national Citizens Advice reveals that companies can make it hard to cancel a subscription with 9 in 10 people prevented from doing so after initially asking. Common reasons for turning down a cancellation include being told to use a specific method, like the phone, or to give more than a month’s notice.
People also reported not being made aware they had signed up for a subscription in the first place, or that their contract would continue on an auto renewal basis.
With subscriptions now being offered across a range of goods and services, from beauty products to TV streaming, Cheshire West Trading Standards and Citizens Advice Cheshire West are urging people to check the small print before they sign up to one.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, businesses can’t enforce terms on consumers that are unfair.
The Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Karen Shore, said: “If you, or anyone you know, have ever been locked into a subscription for something you didn’t sign up for, you are not alone.
“An estimated two million people across the UK still experience issues cancelling recurring payments for subscriptions without their apparent authorisation.
“Our trading standards teams are keen to help banks and financial institutions ensure their customers are protected from subscriptions issues. These situations can cause serious debt problems for consumers when left unmonitored, and we hope businesses ensure their terms and conditions are clear and transparent.”
Paul Nicholls, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Cheshire West, said: “People can be made to feel like they’re going round in circles when trying to cancel a subscription.
“This research shows that companies are continuing to cash in on unwanted subscriptions by blocking people’s cancellation on the grounds of a technicality. It’s important for people to read any terms and conditions before signing up to a subscription, but they should also be on the lookout for companies who are deliberately throwing obstacles in their way when they try to cancel.”
Anyone who needs advice on how to cancel a subscription, or runs into difficulty doing so, should contact Citizens Advice for further help by visiting their local office in Northwich, Chester, Ellesmere Port or Winsford between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday, where no appointment is necessary. Or phone 03445 76 61 11 Monday to Friday 10am-4pm.
Need to know tips about subscriptionsCheck what your cancellation rights are
Each supplier can set their own cancellation policy and they don’t need to offer you a right to cancel your subscription early. Make sure the terms and conditions look reasonable before signing up.
Remember you’ve got a cooling off period if you buy online
If you bought the subscription online, the law says you usually have 14 days to get your money back if you change your mind. However, you might not be able to get a refund if you start using the service straight away.
Follow the cancellation policy
Make sure you follow the cancellation policy set out in your contract when you’re ready to end your subscription. Don’t stop your payment without checking what else is required first - otherwise your subscription may not be cancelled and you could be liable for any missed payments.
Challenge unfair T&Cs
There are no strict definitions for what counts as an unfair policy. But if you’re finding it tough or have to give a long period of notice to cancel a subscription, contact the supplier’s customer services department. If this fails go to the supplier’s trade or complaints body or report to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) today released, as part of the annual National Consumer Week, two video animation guides for consumers, businesses and financial institutions on subscription issues.
The first animation is aimed at businesses who offer subscriptions to their customers. Whether selling gym memberships, health or beauty products, streaming services or periodic subscriptions, all businesses must follow a strict set of laws designed to protect consumers from unfair practices.
The second animation gives practical advice for consumers to make them think before they sign and not be tempted by free trial offers. If consumers find themselves caught in a trap then banks need to be aware of their responsibilities to customers struggling with subscription issues.