Citizens Advice Warns about Subscription Contracts

Citizens Advice Warns about Subscription Contracts
Many consumers still struggle to get out of unwanted subscriptions such as gym memberships and online streaming services, according to Citizens Advice. Analysis of almost 600 problems reported to the service found that in just three months consumers paid an average of £160 on unwanted services. Sometimes, consumers misunderstood terms and conditions, while some companies made cancellation difficult.

The head of the consumer group, Gillian Guy, said firms must “act responsibly. 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,” she said.

Companies refused cancellations by asking for more notice – stretching to six months in some cases – or told people they needed to cancel through a specific route, such as phone or email.

CA said one person who contacted the service said they tried to cancel a subscription after they were made redundant, and were asked for proof from their employer – including a P45. Most payments are thought to be through a Continuous Payment Authority, where companies can change the date or amount of a payment without giving advance notice.

Frequently, consumers said they felt it was unclear they were being signed up to a recurring payment or that the contract may continue on an auto renewal basis. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, businesses can’t enforce terms on consumers that are unfair.

Poorest Energy Customers Need Debt Holiday, says Citizens Advice

Poorest Energy Customers Need Debt Holiday, says Citizens Advice
Ten million householders who use pre-payment energy meters should be given a debt “holiday”, says the charity Citizens Advice.

Unlike other customers, those with pre-payment meters cannot spread their payments throughout the year. As a result they spend twice as much on winter gas bills as in the summer – and are therefore prone to debt. One supplier – Scottish Power, said it had already introduced such a scheme last year.

However Citizens Advice said all suppliers should follow suit, and allow pre-pay customers to pay off debts in the summer period – when their bills are lower.

“A debt holiday would be a Christmas bonus for pre-pay customers,” said Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice. It might also prevent pre-payment customers being forced to turn off their central heating. “Delaying payments for debts will mean those people struggling to afford heat and light don’t have to make severe cut-backs,” she said.

Citizens Advice said that during 2014 there had been a 66% increase in the number of people seeking online help for paying their bills.

An analysis of figures from the regulator, Ofgem, shows that 80% of households having payment meters installed are already in debt.