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Citizens Advice Cornwall Issues Warning about Subcriptions

Citizens Advice Cornwall is warning people about getting stuck with subscriptions after new research reveals people are wasting hundreds of pounds on them when they’re no longer wanted.

Analysis of 500 cases reported to the national Citizens Advice consumer service between June and August 2017 finds people lost an average of £160 from subscriptions they wanted to cancel, but weren’t able to.

Citizens Advice Cornwall is now sharing tips on how to avoid getting tied into a subscription and will be taking part in National Consumer Week – a campaign to help people understand their consumer rights which launches today (Monday 27 November).

The analysis from national Citizens Advice reveals that companies can make it hard to cancel a subscription with nine-in-ten people prevented from doing so after initially asking. Common reasons for turning down a cancellation include being told to use a specific method, like the phone, or to give more than a month’s notice.

People also reported not being made aware they had signed up for a subscription in the first place, or that their contract would continue on an auto renewal basis.


With subscriptions now being offered across a range of goods and services, from beauty products to TV streaming, Citizens Advice Cornwall is urging people to check the small print before they sign-up.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, businesses can’t enforce terms on consumers that are unfair.

Neil Colquhoun, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Cornwall, said:

“People can be made to feel like they’re going round in circles when trying to cancel a subscription.

“This research shows that companies are continuing to cash in on unwanted subscriptions by blocking people’s cancellation on the grounds of a technicality. It’s important for people to read any terms and conditions before signing up to a subscription, but they should also be on the lookout for companies who are deliberately throwing obstacles in their way when they try to cancel.

“Anyone who needs advice on how to cancel a subscription, or runs into difficulty doing so, should contact us for further help.”


Need to know tips about subscriptions:


Check what your cancellation rights are

Each supplier can set their own cancellation policy and they don’t need to offer you a right to cancel your subscription early. Make sure the terms and conditions look reasonable before signing up.


Remember you’ve got a cooling off period if you buy online

If you bought the subscription online, the law says you usually have 14 days to get your money back if you change your mind. However, you might not be able to get a refund if you start using the service straight away.


Follow the cancellation policy

Make sure you follow the cancellation policy set out in your contract when you’re ready to end your subscription. Don’t stop your payment without checking what else is required first – otherwise your subscription may not be cancelled and you could be liable for any missed payments.


Challenge unfair Terms and Conditions

There are no strict definitions for what counts as an unfair policy. But if you’re finding it tough or have to give a long period of notice to cancel a subscription, contact the supplier’s customer services department. If this fails go to the supplier’s trade or complaints body or report to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service.

Notes to editors:

  1. Citizens Advice carried out analysis on 586 subscription problems reported to the Consumer Service between 1 June and 31 August 2017.
  2. Formed in April 2012, the Consumer Protection Partnership brings together key partners within the consumer landscape to better identify, prioritise and coordinate collective action to tackle those issues causing greatest harm to consumers.
  3. The Citizens Advice service is a network of around 300 independent local charities across England and Wales, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  4. Citizens Advice provides free, confidential and independent advice to help people overcome their problems.
  5. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  6. To find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales or to get advice online, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  7. Last year we helped over 2.7 million people face to face, by phone, email or web chat.
  8. People sought our help with 6.2 million issues in the last year. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  9. Citizens Advice services are provided by 23,000 trained volunteers and 7,200 paid staff.