/ Shopping

Catalogue subscriptions: have you been signed up without consent?

Have you ever ordered something from a catalogue, only to be charged for an unwanted subscription? If so, we’d like to hear about your experience.

Recently Which? has spoken to a number of people who’ve bought items advertised in a catalogue over the phone, but ended up having money taken from their account for subscriptions they never asked for.

We’ve been told of prices ranging from £50 to £74 for subscriptions covering a variety of ‘affiliate programs’ that aren’t directly owned by the catalogues themselves.

‘Motor clubs’, ‘PERX schemes’ and book clubs are just some of the services customers say they’ve been unwittingly signed up for. What’s more, many told us they received expired ‘reward cards’ that ran out on the same day they initially contacted the catalogue.

Sound familiar? Let us know your story

A worrying trend we’ve noticed is the age of the customers coming to us with their concerns – it would appear that older and, in some cases more vulnerable, consumers are being particularly affected.

Are you comfortable ordering from a catalogue over the phone?
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The customers who contacted us also say they’ve had to jump through far too many hoops to get out of the subscription, even though they never wanted it to begin with.

If any of this sounds familiar, or you know anyone who’s been tied into a catalogue subscription they didn’t want, please do let us know. We understand that not everyone will be comfortable telling us what happened in the comments here, so feel free to email us on:

yourstory@which.co.uk

Comments

This kind of stuff makes you wonder what kind of people are running these catalogue schemes, and how do they know who is most vulnerable? Are they scammers? This is why people should always read the terms before dealing with these companies, but of course that’s far easier said than done when they make their terms and conditions and their “privacy” policies FAR too ridiculously long winded and far too complex, especially for people who like me have serious learning disabilities and are not so well educated or so fully developed etc. This is why we absolutely MUST have a serious crackdown on legal terms and policies so they have to be far less complex and far simpler. Honestly some of them are just like an encyclopaedia! Far too ridiculously long and complex.

In the article linked to this Conversation [see “subscriptions they never asked for in red above] it makes clear that if you believe the payment is unauthorised, you can tell your bank or credit card provider to stop future payments and ask it to refund payments already made under the Payment Service Regulations 2017. The direct debit guarantee also gives you the right to cancel any future payments. The regulations treat unauthorised card usage the same as they do lost or stolen cards.

That was in respect of a supposedly reputable company [Easylife] which claimed that the customer had ordered rewards club participation in a previous conversation, and she got her money back. But these scams are also perpetrated by disreputable companies, usually offshore, where it will be almost impossible to get your money back if the payment has already gone through the banking system.

The same problem can also arise when ordering subscriptions on-line and a pop-up panel seeks consent, with a single click, to ordering an additional product that appears to be part of the same deal or from the same company or publisher. This second transaction must depend on the scammer piggy-backing on the first one to capture the bank or credit card payment details. The payment will have to appear on the bank or card statement but is likely to be described in a false manner designed to deceive.

There seem to be far too many loopholes in our payment arrangements; the only answer seems to be to ensure there are more authentication controls in place for every remote payment. Deemed consent and presumed acceptance, without a genuine and authorised payment instruction, must be outlawed.

You don’t have to be elderly or vulnerable to become confused and bamboozled but, obviously, from the perpetrator’s point of view, it is a valuable aspect of their business model. So, by deceptively associating themselves with companies providing goods and services to that segment of the market, they are halfway there, and if the phone is answered or the website accessed in the daytime on a weekday they are likely onto a winner.

Hazel Davidson says:
28 April 2022

In your poll, I voted for “Something else”. That’s because I don’t usually use catalogues at all – I go to the shop concerned and look around. If there isn’t a shop where I live, then I don’t buy from them.

I notice that there is also another poll displayed alongside this Conversation entitled “What might stop you from taking up Gigabit broadband?“. It asks respondents who want to state “something else” [i.e. other than the five answers presented] to “tell us in the comments”. Why should this Conversation have to carry comments on a completely different topic?