News & Prosecutions

‘Too good to be true’ subscriptions warning

Trading Standards is urging consumers to read the small print before agreeing ‘too good to be true’ subscriptions which can lock people into an unwanted contract and a cycle of debt.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) estimates that two million people across the UK have had problems cancelling recurring payments for services they were unaware they had agreed to.

These range from gym memberships and health and beauty products to streaming services and periodic subscriptions, many with reduced-rate or free initial trial periods.

Now as part of National Consumer Week (Monday 27 November to Sunday 3 December) Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service is appealing to residents to think before signing a continuous payment authority.

To help consumers and businesses, the CTSI and Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP) have released 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 – 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.

The videos are produced alongside Business Companion, a free government-backed business advice website. Business Companion offers important up-to-date consumer law information including subscription periods, renewal schedules and total monthly costs, as well as continuous payment authorities.

Paul Thomas, Head of Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, said: “Consumers often sign up for subscriptions and can face problems cancelling future payments.

“Some are subscription traps and deliberately mislead, others may not be misleading but consumers must take the time to read the terms and conditions fully. Sometimes the devil is in the detail.”

You can search for a list of tradespeople, vetted by Trading Standards, on the Buy With Confidence website.

Businesses who become members of the scheme commit to operate their company in a legal, honest and fair way.