Saturday, 14 June 2014

Online shopping leaves consumers chilled out as cooling off period extended to 14 days

Finally from Friday, the final stages of the EU Consumer Rights Directive are now coming into force, (as highlighted in an earlier iRateiSlate blog at the beginning of this year). I have been watching with interest the various changes and amendments proposed to our consumer legislation and they cannot come along quick enough, particularly when it comes to online complaints and poor customer service. When shopping online, consumers now have got a 14 day cooling off period, not seven days and this includes digital goods such as films, music and books for the very first time.

Automatic subscriptions for anti-virus product can be a real headache!

I have been checking out how other online services fall under these new regulations, in particular computer anti-virus protection, because I have had a very busy few days trying to sort this out. I bought my anti-virus protection online last year and paid for one year’s subscription at £19.99. I do like to shop around so it was with some surprise that I received an email this week thanking me for my automatic registration for subscription renewal, and not to worry but sit back and the money would come out of my account at a cost of £39.99.

At the very bottom of the email there was a tiny script with a font around Aerial 4, which said I could log onto my account and cancel the subscription if I so wished. I logged on and went to the page to remove my automatic subscription only to find that no products were linked to my account. I looked at my billing account thinking I could change the billing information but again there was nothing showing, although I had a print out of the amount I paid out last year. I left feedback, and got no response, so tried again and still no response. I ended up ringing the company and was on hold for over five minutes ( I hate to think what the phone bill will be but cannot work this out as the charge rate was not given on the site nor over the phone) until an operative came on line.

To be fair to the person on the end of the telephone she was very helpful and apologised, because when she looked at my account she could see everything on there, along with the cancellation button. She then after listening to my concerns, offered me a discount price of £19.99 for a further year of service but at this point I was ready to quit. She duly cancelled my automatic subscription (which I had not signed up for in the first place) and sent me a confirmation email to that effect.
Cost of complaints calls to be reduced
All this took place on Thursday and I now await the telephone bill to see the cost of that call. The regulations that came in on Friday 13 June will be bringing an end to the cost of complaints calls in which consumers have been paying out anywhere in the region of 41 pence per minute. Retailers will still be able to charge a higher amount if you contact them regarding their products or services, but if you are making a complaints call, they are not allowed to charge high prices.

I am now going through all the online services I pay for and have been double checking the small print around automatic billing and deductions from credit/debit cards. I am also interested in hearing from you if you have had a similar experience, so please do get in touch – we’re listening!

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