The quick guide to avoiding subscription traps


What exactly is a subscription trap?

Often, companies offer free or low-cost trials to try and lure in new customers - websites may ask you to type in your card details to gain access to these trial of business's product or services. These trials often have lengthy terms and conditions attached to them. Sometimes, hidden within this bulk of text, is a clause specifying that after the trial period is over you will be charged a subscription. After the trial expires, subscription fees will automatically be taken from your bank account - this is a subscription trap.


What types of businesses use subscription traps?

According to previous Citizens Advice research, most of the issues regarding subscription traps involve the health and beauty industry - women between the ages of 50 and 64 are the most likely to be exploited by such practices. Subscription traps set up by the video and music streaming industries are another area of major concern. Often targeting those under the age of 25, these businesses include some of the most recognisable names in the industry.


What is the impact of subscription traps?

In November, a Citizens Advice study unveiled that the average consumer is spending £160 every three months on unwanted subscriptions. The study highlighted the prevalence of subscription traps, noting that though contracts were alarmingly easy to enter, they could prove very difficult to exit. Subscription traps have additionally been linked to worsening debt, which is particularly concerning when it has been reported a third of people in the North East worry about debt.


How can I avoid subscription traps?

Although it can be a tedious process, if you're considering signing up for a free trial, you should always read the terms and conditions in full. As part of this process, you should carefully look at the cancellation terms and make sure that no boxes have been automatically ticked. Make sure you regularly check your bank statement for any charges you don't recognise and always be careful with which websites you provide your bank details to.


What should I do if I've fell into a subscription trap?

Your first call of action is to contact the company in question directly ask to cancel your subscription - many larger businesses have web chat and customer helplines you can go through. It's also a good idea to contact your bank and inform them that you wish to cancel any future payments. If you're unsure if the business adequately explained the subscription charges, or if you need any other advice on subscription traps, you can ring the Citizens Advice free Consumer Helpline on: 03454 04 05 06