Citizens Advice Northumberland is 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 found that people lost an average of £160 from subscriptions they wanted to cancel, but weren’t able to.
The analysis from national Citizens Advice revealed that companies can make it hard to cancel a subscription, with nine in 10 people prevented from doing so after initially asking.
Common reasons for turning down a cancellation included 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 that 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 television streaming, Citizens Advice Northumberland is 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.
Abigail Conway, chief executive of Citizens Advice Northumberland, 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 that 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 us for further help.”
Here are some tips about subscriptions.
Check 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 terms and conditions. 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 Consumer Helpline is on 03454 040506. The helpline adviser can give you practical and impartial advice on how to resolve your consumer problem, tell you the law which applies to your situation, and pass information about complaints on to Trading Standards (you can’t do this yourself).
However, the adviser can’t make a complaint for you or take legal action on your behalf.
The Northumberland Adviceline is on 03444 111 444. Alternatively, go online to citizensadvice.org.uk and look under consumer.