How to save money on subscriptions
Don’t fritter away your hard-earned money on unwanted subscriptions
In November 2017, Citizens Advice research revealed that in just three months consumers spent an average of £160 on unwanted subscriptions, including gym memberships, television and online streaming services. The consumer organisation also found that between June and August 2017, 9 out of 10 people were initially refused by companies when cancellation of an unwanted subscription was requested.
So what are your rights and the best ways to deal with these subscriptions? Here are my top 10 tips.
10 top tips to not pay for subscriptions
Look out for the subscription traps
1) Be aware of the “free” and very cheap trials of subscriptions. Most, if not all, will ask for payment information when you sign up. Set yourself a reminder to cancel a day before the first payment is due.
2) Check the cancellation rights before signing up to anything but be aware that you may still be able to challenge these in certain circumstances.
3) Check that the site is genuine. The website address should begin with “https”, have a padlock symbol, a full correspondence address (not a PO box number) and any trade logos should be genuine. Also, search the Internet for reviews and check for warning signs like lots of grammatical errors or a domain name that uses a well-known brand/product but isn’t the official website or ends in .net or .org as these are rarely used for online shopping sites. You can also check who registered the domain via the com website.
Consumer laws and regulations covering subscription terms and conditions
4) Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, you are entitled to a 14 day “cooling off” period, so if you have signed up to something off premises (e.g. online) you can cancel with no penalty.
5) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, consumers are protected from unfair contracts. So, for example, if a company says that you must give 6 months’ notice to cancel a subscription, that would be unfair.
6) The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 state that companies must provide accurate and sufficient information for consumers to make a purchasing decision. For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer. For example, when a shopper makes a purchasing decision he or she would not have made had he or she been given accurate information.
Use direct debit for subscriptions
7) If you are going to sign up to a subscription, try and use Direct Debit where possible. With Direct Debit, a company cannot change the regular payment amount unless it give you notice of how and when it will take it. This notice is usually 10 working days. Using a debit card or credit card is known as a Continuous Payment Authority which can be of varying amounts which can be changed without your consent.
8) When you cancel with the company, also inform your bank to ensure that the subscription payment is cancelled. You will then also be covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee, which ensures a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society if a mistake is made.
9) If you want to cancel, do so quickly and in writing so you have evidence. If you are prepared to discuss the matter because you want to haggle for example, telephone helpline numbers cannot cost the consumer more than the basic rate, so no 084 and 087 numbers. If companies do use these then they are in breach of the The Consumer Contract (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and Ofcom regulations.
10) When writing to cancel, provide all details of the policy/memberships etc., dates of subscriptions and request that the cancellation is made with immediate effect. Name the laws above and describe how the company is in breach, if relevant.
Government plans to make changes around subscription laws
On 20 June 2021 the Government finally published its consumer paper for consultation. It is titled Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy. The closing date for responses is 11.45am on 1 October 2021.
My response can be found here.
Further help complaining about subscriptions and terms and conditions
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101 Habits of an Effective Complainer to help you become more skilled and assertive when making complaints