Warnings over firms offering freebies leading to 'subscription traps'

By Nick Humphreys | Crime | Published:

People are being warned about "subscription traps" set up by unscrupulous businesses offering free trials that seem too good to be true.

Councillor Gwilym Butler

Many firms have been offering freebies to attract customers for things such as meal delivery schemes and hair and beauty products.

But Shropshire Council's trading standards department is urging the public to be extra vigilant not to be lured into a subscription trap. The traps mislead consumers into signing up for a product with promise of a free trial, a reduced rate trial or sample goods where the consumer only has to pay for postage and packaging.

Any card details provided are then used to take recurring payments for a subscription.

Frances Darling, Shropshire Council’s trading standards and licensing operations manager, said: “Businesses offering a free trial period or similar, which then results in a paid subscription if not cancelled, must make this clear.

“The terms and conditions for any such offer must also state: how and when the subscription will start, the total cost of the subscription per month or billing period, if there is a minimum subscription period, and details on how to cancel the subscription, if applicable."

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services, added: “I would advise all customers to be cautious when looking to take advantage of a free trial or sample. Whilst I understand free trials are often an excellent way to try a product or service without committing to spend any money, unfortunately there are dishonest businesses looking to trap you in a costly subscription without you realising. Be sure to carefully read the terms and conditions associated with any free trial or similar and remember that, if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

“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 so you can get the support you need; this will also ensure trading standards is informed to help prevent others falling victim too.”

Nick Humphreys

By Nick Humphreys
Senior Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star focusing on Shrewsbury.

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