Consumers are wasting significant sums of money on subscriptions they no longer want or need.
A survey conducted by charity Citizens Advice between June and August 2017 found that consumers typically paid £160 towards unwanted subscriptions over the three-month period.
This figure included gym memberships, television packages, and insurance policies that were no longer useful.
Online streaming services, such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, were highlighted as a growing problem for consumers, as many people remain subscribed long after they want to.
One person who contacted Citizens Advice for support said they had felt “tricked” when they signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime and the company made it difficult to cancel.
This research has been published as part of National Consumer Week, a campaign encouraging consumers to know their legal rights when dealing with companies.
Citizens Advice is calling on providers to be clearer with their customers about exit penalties and to make sure notice periods are a fair length. It says 90% of people it surveyed have encountered some difficulty when trying to cancel a subscription.
In some cases, companies have required six months’ notice before a cancellation takes effect. Other firms ask customers to cancel over the phone, even if the sign-up process and account management has been conducted online.
‘People are wasting time and energy’
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says: “Subscriptions are very easy to sign up to but can be difficult for consumers to get out of. We know people are wasting time and energy trying to cancel subscriptions while paying out of pocket.
“As part of National Consumer Week, we want to make sure consumers are aware of the terms and conditions of any subscription before they sign up and companies act responsibly when customers want to end their services.”
Guy Parker, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority – which is supporting the campaign, adds: “Promotions which encourage people to sign-up to ongoing payments must be upfront and clear about what exactly they’re agreeing to. Burying key information in the terms and conditions can be misleading and unfair and risks leaving consumers out of pocket.
“We support National Consumer Week and are reminding people to ensure they understand fully the extent and nature, as well as the financial commitment, of a subscription offer before signing up to it.”