A recent analysis by Citizens Advice has highlighted worrying trends across subscription services; consumers are struggling to cancel unwanted subscriptions and are paying an average of £160 every three months for them.

These subscriptions come in many different forms, examples including: gym memberships, streaming services, cable television and insurance policies. A report from the Entertainment Retailers Organisation, released earlier this year, demonstrates the significance of subscription services in modern life, noting: "of the £633m spent on digital music in 2016 [...] 66% came via monthly streaming subscriptions."

The research by Citizens Advice, based on cases reported to the charity's consumer service this year, shows that 90% of people attempting to cancel a subscription are initially refused the option to do so.

Companies often urge consumers to cancel their subscription through a different medium (such as by phone or email), making the cancellation process significantly more difficult. Another method used by businesses to retain subscriptions is by claiming that they need more notice before issuing a cancellation.

Many businesses lure consumers into subscriptions by offering a free trial. After this trial period is over, corporations are often immediately charging people the cost of several months' subscription, rather than inquiring as to whether the consumer wishes to continue using their services. This practice is often referred to as a subscription trap.

Previous research by the charity on the subject indicated that the majority of the UK public were uninformed about their consumer rights in regards to subscriptions. This report additionally highlighted the prevalence of subscription traps on social media and identified women aged 50 to 64 as the primary victim of shady subscription practices."

As a result of the analysis, we're urging the public to read the terms and conditions of subscription services before signing up (no matter how tedious the process can be).

Furthermore the national charity is offering several tips for cancelling subscription services:

"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 T&Cs

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."