Commissioner's Blog: Don’t get caught in a subscription trap
Whether it’s a gym, streaming service, or dating site you’re signed up to, it can be tricky keeping track of how much money is leaving your bank account each month to pay for subscriptions and memberships.
These small, but regular, costs can soon add up and contribute to cost of living pressures, so it can be worthwhile taking the time to see which services are worth keeping and which ones aren’t.
In the past 12 months, almost 300 consumers have come to Consumer Protection with complaints about subscriptions and memberships – nearly a third of which involved issues cancelling fitness services.
Under WA’s Fitness Code, consumers are allowed to cancel their fitness service electronically, with direct debits to stop once the last payment due under the contract has been paid. Prior to the end of the initial term of an agreement, fitness providers must also notify consumers before automatically renewing their memberships, thus giving them the opportunity to cancel without penalty.
Subscriptions traps are one of the many so-called ‘dark patterns’ that may be deceiving consumers online by tricking them into parting with more money than they intended to.
A subscription trap may occur when an online retailer or service provider treats a single purchase or free trial as consent to sign consumers up to a paid subscription without adequately disclosing that ongoing fees are involved. Deceptive design patterns are often built into the interface, such as pre-ticked checkboxes, trick questions and redirection.
To avoid getting caught in a subscription trap, make sure you’ve read and understand the terms and conditions before signing up to see whether any ongoing fees are involved.
If you sign up for a free trial with the intention of cancelling the subscription before the billing date, it can be helpful to set yourself a calendar reminder.
When reviewing existing memberships and subscription services, look through your bank statements to see what you’re paying for, then think about which services you use and check whether there’s a better deal, cheaper plan or low-cost alternative. Cancel any subscriptions or memberships you’re not using or getting value from.
If you’re struggling to cancel a subscription, or believe you’ve been misled into paying for one, contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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