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Consumers spend over £50 a month on unwanted subscriptions

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Consumers are still struggling to get rid of unwanted subscriptions, according to Citizens Advice and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

An analysis of around 600 problems reported to Citizens Advice found that consumers pay an average of £160 on unwanted services, including gym memberships and online streaming services, in just three months.

At the same time, the CTSI said around two million people still experienced issues cancelling recurring payments for subscriptions without their apparent authorisation. In conjunction with the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP), it has released two video guides for consumers, businesses and financial institutions on subscription issues. In theory, businesses must follow a strict set of laws designed to protect consumers from unfair practices.

CTSI chief executive, Leon Livermore, said: “Knowing your rights allows for better informed decisions. Consumers should consider those whenever they subscribe to a new offering. If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Subscriptions and subscription traps affect millions in the UK. National Consumer Week offers trading standards the chance to actively engage with consumers on a local and national level, and is a first step to combating detriment and ensuring consumer protection.

“We’re also eagerly awaiting the government’s upcoming green paper that sets out its vision for consumer protection in a post-Brexit landscape.”

Citizens Advice said that the problems were mostly caused by ‘Continuous Payment Authority’, where companies can change the date or amount of a payment without giving advance notice. Customers said it was often unclear that they were signing up to something for the long-term.

National Consumer Week is an annual consumer education campaign coordinated by Citizens Advice and other members of the CPP, with this year’s campaign focusing on subscription issues and subscription traps. Subscription issues can include signing up for a fixed-term deal, trial, or promotion where it is unclear that the consumer will be auto-enrolled into ongoing payments.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Subscriptions are very easy to sign up to but can be difficult for consumers to get out of. We know people are wasting time and energy trying to cancel subscriptions while paying out of pocket.

“As part of National Consumer Week, we want to make sure consumers are aware of the terms and conditions of any subscription before they sign up and companies act responsibly when customers want to end their services.”

Citizen’s Advice need-to-know tips about subscriptions:

  • Check your cancellation rights
  • Remember you’ve got a cooling off period of 14 days if you buy online
  • Follow the cancellation policy
  • Challenge unfair terms & conditions.

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