13. april 2015

International measures against false free trials

This winter, the Consumer Ombudsman uncovered a widespread occurrence of subscription traps online. 18 Norwegian companies were made to tidy up. Now foreign companies have received the same message.

International measures against false free trials

Have you been offered a trial package for a free dieting supplement or health foods online or via a telemarketer? If this is the case, you might have come across a so-called subscription trap, and this may turn out to be both costly and difficult to cancel.

The Consumer Ombudsman regularly receives complaints from frustrated consumers who have been subjected to this type of misleading marketing. For this reason, the Consumer Ombudsman performed an inspection of ads claiming to be free trials when in reality they were subscription traps. This led to demands that 18 Norwegian companies change their practice.

International consumer problem

Subscription traps can be particularly frustrating when the companies behind them are foreign and hard to reach. Our inspection this January proved that many of the companies offering free trials and campaign offers are registered abroad.

The Consumer Ombudsman is now cooperating with consumer protection agencies in other countries to strike down on these companies. We share our findings with the countries where the different companies are located, through the international Consumer Protection Cooperation-network (CPC). In doing so, we make it possible to take legal action in those countries.

Member countries of the CPC system are committed to treat any case sent to them from the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman, regardless of the fact that the complaints originate from abroad. Likewise, the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman treats cases sent from foreign authorities when they regard Norwegian companies. This system secures an efficient management of the cases that may concern consumers across several European countries.

– Fraud is increasingly becoming a transboundary consumer protection issue. This stresses the importance of applying all available means of solving these issues on behalf of the consumers internationally, says Consumer Ombudsman Gry Nergård.

Examples of subscription traps from six countries

The Consumer Ombudsman has shared its information on the following six companies, on the grounds of breached consumer protection laws:

SuperShopping A variety of products Estonia
ProShopper Viagerex The Netherlands
Aimé Green Tea Magic Cream promoted in ad.

More products on web page.

The Czech Republic
Perfect Nutrition Store Green Coffee The United Kingdom
Electronic Cigarettes Europe DanSmoke The United Kingdom
Members Market  Den Ekstra Ingrediensen Denmark

The same set of rules for all European member states

Full disclosure is a strict requirement for all subscription agreements, as set in the Cancellation Act. This applies to all European member states through the Consumer Rights Directive.

If an agreement lacks clear information about pricing, terms and conditions, or doesn’t state the fact that it is a subscription, the agreement is not valid and the stakeholder may not demand payment of the consumer.

 

Press contact at the Consumer Ombudsman:

Gry Nergård, Consumer Ombudsman (Tel: +47 99 00 50 80)