Buying online often requires vigilance to ensure you don’t buy extra things you don’t need.
Reader MB of London got in touch about his experience when he used international company Vistaprint to order some posters online to be printed.
He takes up the story: “All seemed well. But I was struck by an odd email I received from Vistaprint, which said ‘We’re sorry you’re leaving us’.”
MB was confused because in fact he had last used the company some 18 months previously to buy some T-shirts. So what was going on?
After some investigation and checking his bank statements, he noticed a regular £11 payment to the firm.
“It turned out that in my previous order I appeared to have been defaulted into some sort of website consultancy club,” he told me. “I don’t need and wouldn’t want such services as I have a website already.”
He worked out that he had been charged £164 for the service that he did not use.
MB contacted the company to complain and it instantly refunded his cash.
Its quick response made him wonder whether it had happened before. He asked: “Could you please look into this for me and my fellow consumers?”
I was glad to and I put MB’s story to Vistaprint. Its response was interesting.
“Read carefully boxes you’re asked to tick”
The company said that MB had selected its website builder “in a cross-sell placement” when he bought his T-shirts.
In other words, there had presumably been a box, which MB is likely to have ticked.
It can be easy to tick boxes or not untick boxes and end up signing up for things you don’t want.
Vistaprint denies that’s the case in this instance.
It said: “Customers are not defaulted into purchasing a website builder and need to expressly select to have it added to their basket.”
So how MB ended up subscribing we may never know, but it’s clear he ticked a box by mistake.
However, the company has promised to act positively after we shared this story.
It said: “We are exploring a new process whereby customers that try our website builder will not be charged until they publish it. Additionally, we’ve engaged our website team to test our checkout procedures and improve the customer experience during the ordering process.”
Two points rise out of this. First, read and re-read any boxes you’re asked to tick – or untick when buying online. Second, check bank or credit card statements, so you don’t get hit by months of rogue payments. It’s easy to miss small regular payments, so look at the destination of the payment as well as the amount.
OUTCOME: Vistaprint agrees to improve its procedures
SIMON READ is a a money writer and broadcaster. He was personal finance editor at The Independent and is an expert on BBC1’s Right On The Money