Women aged 50 to 64 are most at risk from ‘subscription traps’, according to new data from Citizens Advice.
The schemes are used for a variety of goods and services, but it is health and beauty products such as slimming pills and products as well as face and skin creams which particularly cause problems.
The ‘traps’ mislead consumers into subscribing for goods and services mainly advertised online via social media or pop-up ads. A free trial, reduced rate trial or sample goods may be offered, where only postage and packing by debit or credit card is required.
However, the consumer’s card details are then used to take recurring payments for a subscription using a continuous payment authority - a CPA. The terms and conditions of the offer may not make this clear with the vital information buried within lengthy and possibly unclear terms and conditions.
Although more than 16.8 million consumers in Great Britain signed up to a subscription service using a CPA in the year commencing June 2015, only 1 in 5 GB adults knows the difference between a CPA and direct debit.
The survey also highlights that as many as 2 million consumers in Great Britain have had a request to cancel a CPA for subscription declined by either the company or their bank/card provider.
Mike Andrews the National Coordinator for the National Trading Standards eCrime Team said:
“Subscription traps or free-trial scams are where rogue traders or scammers hijack consumer enthusiasm for ‘free trials’ and trap people into recurring payments that can be difficult to spot before they have lost significant sums of money. Over the last few years subscription traps have become increasingly prevalent, but now a number of agencies have come together to raise awareness of the issue and coordinate action against the worst offenders. We will certainly do all we can to warn consumers of the dangers of free-trial scams and how to avoid them.”
More advice can be found at www.citizensadvice.org.uk