Not what you signed up for? Problems with subscriptions

With ever inventive ways to lure us to shop – from Black Friday offers to Cyber Monday discounts –  it seems the shops are creating newer, better marketing to get us to buy their products and the offers seem all too tempting. So it is important to be aware of a few pitfalls out there.

Whilst not all shops are unscrupulous, many products are now on subscription and it is these products we at Citizens Advice are focussing on during National Consumer Week, this week.  Many of us find online shopping the easiest and simplest way to shop and it can be all too easy to click “buy” from your phone or device without paying too much attention to what you are really buying and signing up to. If the product is a subscription product such as a magazine, skin cream or activity box, we can unwittingly sign up to more than we bargained for.  Marketing campaigns designed to hook you in on an offer of a free trial and once that trial period is up can, begin charging you whatever amount they wish. These subscriptions are easy to agree to but may be harder to get out of so make sure you look out for the following essentials when purchasing:

  • Before you give your bank details make sure that the product is a set cost and the terms clearly state, they will deduct the same amount each month.
  • The length of the contract and how much notice you need to give to end it.
  • If you pay by Direct Debit (DD) be sure you are signing up to a DD and not a Continuous Payment Authority (CPA). A DD will take the same amount each month on the same date, a CPA is different and the charges can vary.
  • Free trials can lead to auto-enrolments to subscriptions.
  • If you change your mind, you have a 14 day cooling off period, so make sure you contact the provider to end the contract.
  • Be sure the offer is from a genuine company and not a scam. The website should start with https:// and display a padlock.
  • Watch out for pre-ticked boxes as you sign up, read the small print carefully.
  • Facing ongoing payments you didn’t sign up for this CyberMonday, go to to find out more about how to cancel.

During 2015-2016 over 16 million people signed up to subscription products and it is now believed 9 out of 10 consumers use them in one form or another.  But whilst we want to be sure we know what we’re agreeing to sometimes it’s just not as simple as that, so please watch out and shop carefully. For more information on National Consumer Week please go to