How to Avoid Subscription Traps – A New Study from the ECC Sweden

A new study on subscription trap problems in six countries, conducted by the the European Consumer Centre Sweden, reveals that Finnish consumers are more aware of their rights than average. However, many people still fall into online subscription traps.

Free samples, Nike sneakers costing only a few euros or a new smartphone for the price of postage continue to attract consumers into unconsidered clicks, as a result of which the consumer is bound to fixed-term or otherwise lengthy and expensive agreements without first noticing it. Advertisements leading to subscription traps often show up on social media channels, such as Facebook.

“Finland has led the way in matters related to subscription traps. The European Consumer Centre Finland has kept the subject visible on different channels and the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman also took firm action on subscription traps in 2015, urging consumers to not pay for products delivered as a result of the intentional misleading of the consumer,” explains Leena Lindström, Director at the European Consumer Centre Finland.

Regardless of this, many people still pay groundless invoices and help to make subscription traps profitable. For this reason, it is important once again to go through advice on avoiding subscription traps.

Do not click on online offers that seem too good to be true

Subscription traps show no signs of easing up. The old principle “if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is” still stands. Unfortunately few consumers realise this.

Here are a few more tips from the European Consumer Centre to those who have fallen for a subscription trap:

  • Unintentionally made orders can be cancelled, and according to the study published today, Finnish consumers seem to know their basic rights rather well. Distance selling, for example orders made online, usually has a 14-day-long right of withdrawal.
  •  However, the cancellation cannot be made by simply returning an unwanted package – pay close attention to the terms and conditions, and remember that you will have to pay the return costs, unless otherwise mentioned in the terms and conditions. Submit a complaint on an unwanted order to the seller in writing, for example by email.
  •  If problems arise and you have paid with a credit card, you can also claim chargeback from the bank that issued the credit card, pursuant to the Consumer Protection Act.
  • Learn to recognise subscription traps by watching the European Consumer Centre’s new video (in Finnish). This humorous short video tells the story of a typical subscription trap lurking online. The video, which has texts in Finnish, was made by the European Consumer Centre Denmark.
  • Many people who have ended up in a subscription trap blame themselves when they shouldn’t. If you have fallen into a trap, you acted precisely in the way the designer of the subscription trap intended.
  • You should also remember that you are not alone in this. You can contact us at the European Consumer Centre for help, if the company responsible for the subscription trap is located in another EU member state, Norway or Iceland.

Further information

Subscription Traps in Europe. EU Study into Public Experiences of Subscription Traps in Six Countries in 2017. European Consumer Centre Sweden, 2017