Tricked into a sneaky subscription trap? Know and use the rights on your side

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WHAT RULES SHOULD A MERCHANT PLAY?

Here are a number of rules that EU-based traders must follow. Under the European Consumer Rights Directive, before a consumer is bound by an online contract, certain information must be provided by the trader in a clear and complete manner. In the case of a subscription, this information should include the total costs for each month (or billing period); the duration of the contract – or if the contract is for an indefinite period or automatically extended, the conditions for terminating this contract; the identity of the trader – and his contact details; the main characteristics of the goods or services purchased; and the time you have to withdraw from a contract (when there is a right to do so).

“The trader should ensure that the consumer, when placing an order, explicitly acknowledges that the order involves an obligation to pay,” said Dr Cyril Sullivan of ECC Ireland.

“If the trader has not respected (this rule), the consumer is not bound by the contract or
order.”

You also have the EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive on your side. Under this law, a commercial practice is considered deceptive if a trader presents an offer in a way that deceives or is likely to deceive a consumer about the terms of a product or service (such as price, how the price is calculated, or the rights of the consumer). This law would also consider a trade practice to be deceptive if it leads – or could lead – to a consumer buying something that he would not have bought otherwise.

Keep in mind, however, that you generally don’t have the protection of EU laws if you buy from a merchant based outside the EU.

DO I ALWAYS HAVE 14 DAYS TO CANCEL WITHOUT REASON?

There are certain things – like hotel reservations and travel tickets – for which you are not entitled to the 14 day cooling off period (where you can cancel your order within 14 days for any reason. – as long as you are dealing with a merchant based in the EU) when shopping online.

Likewise, when a service has already started before the end of the 14-day withdrawal period, you no longer have the right to withdraw. For example, you lose the right to opt out of a video streaming service once the streaming of the video has started – as long as that contract has started with your consent and acknowledgment of the loss of the right to opt out, according to Dr. Sullivan. Don’t take the trader’s word for it: check with ECC Ireland.

HOW CAN I INCREASE MY CHANCES OF GETTING A CLAIM?

“Pay with something you are likely to get relief for, like your credit card,” Dr. Sullivan said. “A chargeback request (where you get your money back after a card provider cancels the transaction) will generally be accepted when you can prove that there has been a violation of the law.”

Don’t buy anything from a merchant whose contact details you cannot find – or whose only contact information is their website or PO box.


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