Num­ber of words rds in some phone con­tracts

Computer Active (UK) - - Welcome - Which com­pa­nies have tried to trap you with sub­scrip­tions? Let us know: let­ters@com­put­er­ac­

Com­pa­nies that try to trick you into pay­ing for sub­scrip­tions will be fined un­der new Gov­ern­ment plans. Mil­lions of peo­ple each year fall into a ‘sub­scrip­tion trap’ af­ter com­pa­nies au­to­mat­i­cally sign them up to con­tracts fol­low­ing free tri­als.

In the Bud­get Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond an­nounced a crack­down on “un­ex­pected pay­ments” faced by con­sumers, promis­ing tougher penal­ties for com­pa­nies who break the law. Web­sites such as Ama­zon and Net­flix could be forced to stop tak­ing peo­ple’s credit-card de­tails when they sign up to a free trial. With­out this in­for­ma­tion sites would be un­able to take money from cus­tomers’ bank ac­counts.

In re­cent years hun­dreds of our read­ers have asked our Con­sumer­ac­tive team to help them claim back money lost in th­ese kind of traps.

The prob­lem has grown with the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of on­line shop­ping. Most cus­tomers ac­cept terms and con­di­tions when buy­ing items on­line, but a 2016 sur­vey from Cit­i­zens Ad­vice showed that less than 20 per cent ac­tu­ally read them.

Min­is­ters say that some com­pa­nies de­lib­er­ately con­fuse cus­tomers with im­pen­e­tra­ble small print that ties them into ex­pen­sive sub­scrip­tions. Some of the worst of­fend­ers are phone com­pa­nies, whose con­tracts for mo­biles can run up to 40,000 words.

But the Gov­ern­ment will now con­sider new rules forc­ing com­pa­nies to make terms and con­di­tions “clearer, sim­pler and shorter”. The Chan­cel­lor told Par­lia­ment that sub­scrip­tion traps are “some of the frus­tra­tions that some­times make it feel that the dice are loaded against or­di­nary work­ing peo­ple go­ing about their ev­ery­day lives”.

The plans, out­lined in sec­tion 6.2 of the ‘Spring Bud­get 2017’ pol­icy pa­per (, were wel­comed by Gil­lian Guy, head of Cit­i­zens Ad­vice, who said: “Bad busi­ness prac­tices that rip cus­tomers off and ex­ploit their loy­alty are rife across sec­tors and jeop­ar­dise house­hold fi­nances”.

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