Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q I recently made a transaction online and was invited to click on to a voucher offer to save £20 off my next purchase. Four months later I’ve noticed that my credit card has been debited with £60 for ‘membership fees’.
Apparently, I’ve been signed up to a company discount scheme at a cost of £15 a month. Is this a mistake or have I been caught out?
A It’s certainly not a mistake, and it’s easy to see why you’ve been caught out.
Like any online shopper it’s easy to inadvertently sign up to these discount schemes, and you need to keep your cool and your wits about you.
Usually before you complete your transaction an advert page pops up tempting you with additional cash back offers or money-saving coupons.
You only have to be caught momentarily off guard, and click the ‘yes’ button, to find you’ve been legally snared into a ‘discount’ club membership programme.
You tried to ring the company on a number of occasions about the mysterious deductions from your credit card account but found it impossible to get through.
I tried for you as well, but got the same result.
I did eventually get through to a company spokesperson who confirmed that you had in fact signed up to a continuous payment authority for your club membership.
This means you are unable to cancel it yourself, and only the company can do it for you.
After I obtained your permission I was successful in cancelling your membership. I reminded the company spokesperson that similar online operations had been threatened with closure by the Office of Fair Trading for not making it clear to their online customers that they were being signed up to a membership club.
I was then assured the company was in the process of changing its online advertising to make it plain to shoppers they were signing up to a membership offer from a separate company.
The moral to your story is a familiar one.
Never, ever, click onto any ‘out of the blue’ online offer without reading the terms and conditions before you press the tempting oversize ‘yes’ button.
Q My 14-year-old daughter wants us to act as a guarantor for a £15 a month mobile phone deal which comes with lots of free texts. My husband is reluctant to underwrite the deal saying we will become liable to pay if our daughter runs up excessive phone bills. I don’t want to disappoint her, but is he right?
A Yes, your husband is right to be cautious because the phone company’s air time provider will fall back on you to pay your daughter’s phone bills if she defaults.
A pay-as-you-go (PAYG) phone deal is the obvious answer. There are lots of good deals available with PAYG from phone providers on the internet.
Get your daughter to research one she finds attractive.