Several Surrey schools have been scammed by subscription traps locking them into costly repeat payments after appearing ‘free’.
Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards are warning residents, business and other organisations not to fall victim to online subscription traps after the schools lost out on over several hundred pounds each.
Subscription traps take place when you sign up online or on the phone for ‘free’ trials of products or services. Once the trial period is over you discover you have actually signed up to a subscription and are locked into costly repeat payments.
Trading Standards is urging everyone to ask the following questions before sending off for anything described as free
• What am I agreeing to in order to claim this offer?
• Is the trial really ‘free’ or could I have money taken from my bank account or card?
• Do I have to provide my payment details? If yes – stop and ask why.
• If there can be a charge, do I know how much it is and when the payment will be taken? Also, what exactly will I get in exchange for that charge?
• What must I do to stop the payment and by when?
• If I do get charged – what does the company say about giving me my money back?
• If I do get charged and do nothing, what happens next? Might the company take more payments in the future?
Denise Turner Stewart, Cabinet Member for Communities at Surrey County Council, said, “It’s vitally important that we never share bank details with companies that we don’t know or trust without doing some prior research. Stop, take five minutes and ask yourself, if this really is free then why do I have to hand over my bank details? The subscription clause is usually buried in the terms and conditions and is missed by many people, eager instead to take advantage of the ‘fantastic offer’ being advertised.
“If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is a constant threat to residents and businesses and we must prevent ourselves becoming victim.”
If you think you’re caught in a subscription trap, you can seek advice from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline by calling 0808 223 1133; this will also ensure trading standards is informed and help prevent others falling victim too.