Monday 27 March 2017

I forgot to cancel my newspaper subscription and now my credit card has been charged

'I signed up for a 30-day free trial for an online newspaper subscription. I forgot to unsubscribe before the end of the 30 days and the company has started to deduct €20 a month from my credit card.' Photo: PA
'I signed up for a 30-day free trial for an online newspaper subscription. I forgot to unsubscribe before the end of the 30 days and the company has started to deduct €20 a month from my credit card.' Photo: PA

Fergal O'Leary

I signed up for a 30-day free trial for an online newspaper subscription. I forgot to unsubscribe before the end of the 30 days and the company has started to deduct €20 a month from my credit card.

My bank said it cannot stop the charge. How can I stop the company taking money from my account?

Tommy, Tullamore, Co Offaly

When you signed up to the free trial, you would have agreed to terms and conditions that may have stated that you are given a limited time to cancel the agreement - after which the company can start to deduct money from your card. If you agreed to these terms and conditions (which you normally have to do to get the free trial), then you also agreed to the company deducting money from your card.

Some companies will state in their terms and conditions that you will not receive a notification from them that your paid membership has begun, so it is up to you to know when the free trial ends. Check this when you are signing up or see if it is detailed somewhere in the terms and conditions on the company's website.

Online subscriptions are usually a recurring charge on a debit or credit card as opposed to a direct debit. In general, you cannot cancel a recurring charge with your card provider (usually your bank) as you can with a direct debit. So, you must contact the company that you have the subscription with to cancel the recurring charge. This should be done in such a way that you have proof that you asked them to cancel your subscription - such as by email. Check your bank or credit card statements to see if the recurring charge that you have cancelled is no longer being taken out of your account.

If that doesn't work, you may need to contact your card provider and look for a chargeback (essentially a refund of a disputed transaction) on your current account or credit card account for any subscriptions taken after you cancelled the payment with the company.

You should also provide evidence to your bank that you have attempted to contact the company to cancel the subscription but have not been successful - for example, provide a copy of emails you sent to the company. If all else fails, your last resort may be to cancel your card and apply for a new one. You should also continue to apply for the chargeback.

My son has been begging me to get him a hoverboard for his birthday. Aside from the expense, I am concerned about the safety of these products. I have heard reports that they pose a fire risk. How can I ensure the hoverboard I buy is safe?

Gemma, Salthill, Co Galway

If you are thinking about buying a hoverboard (also known as self-balancing scooters), you should be aware of the potential safety and fire risks - and know what to look out for.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has investigated traders who are importing and selling hoverboards to see if these products meet safety standards. To date, the CCPC has not found any which comply with the relevant safety standards.

The CCPC's investigations found evidence of hoverboards with non-compliant and potentially unsafe plugs and fuses - as well as significant issues with the cables, chargers and battery packs. If the AC/DC adapter or charger - or the battery pack - overheat, it could potentially cause a fire. If you are thinking of buying a hoverboard, look for a CE mark - which shows that a product meets its required safety standards. Hoverboards must carry the CE mark. The CE mark should appear on the product, in the instruction manual or on the packaging.

Don't rely on the CE mark alone, as the mark may be not be genuine. Check the box, charger and the device for markings or traceable information, such as the name and full contact details (including a postal address) of the manufacturer and the importer. If this information is missing, do not buy it.

Check the manual for spelling mistakes and information or instructions that do not make sense. If you are buying a board online or on social media, check for online reviews which seem genuine and for information about the company's head office location and landline number.

Remember that if you buy from another consumer, consumer rights do not apply. Finally, if you are not fully satisfied that the product is safe, don't buy it.

I recently bought a dress from an online auction site. When the dress arrived, it did not fit, so I planned on returning it to get a refund. Now the seller is saying it does not have to refund me. Is this right?

Sinead, Castleknock, Co Dublin

You have certain protections when you buy online from an EU-based website. One of these includes the right to change your mind when you are shopping online, even if it's just because you don't like what you ordered.

You are given a cooling-off period of 14 days, which ends 14 days after you receive the item. This means you have the right to cancel an order for any reason within this period. Unfortunately, these rights do not apply if you buy something from another individual - either directly, or in your case, through a website.

This is because items sold in an online auction where the seller is another consumer are not covered by consumer law, so you do not have a cooling-off period. Auction sites usually take no responsibility for the quality of the items for sale, or the accuracy of the listings. Always check the terms and conditions of the auction website before making a bid.

We recently welcomed twin boys and I am already worrying about how I will meet the costs of sending them to school and maybe to college in the future. Do you have any tips on how we could save to meet the never-ending future costs of our children?

Aoife, Tullow, Co Carlow

Planning and saving for your children's future education while they're young will help take the pressure off you in the years ahead.

The first step is to see what you can afford to save. Look at the financial health check tool on the CCPC consumer site (www.consumerhelp.ie) to get a clear picture of your finances. You will be able to see what you have been spending your money on - making it easier to identify where you need to make changes so you can start to save.

Look at the money you have coming in over a week, month or year - such as your salary, your partner's salary and child benefit. Then look at your outgoings - mortgage or rent payments, heating, electricity, phone, insurance and so on.

When you have worked out how much you can save, open a savings account. Doing this when your child is young means that you have a number of years to build up your savings. Compare regular savings accounts on consumerhelp.ie or check with your local credit union to see what it has to offer. Look for an account with the best interest rate. When choosing where to save, think about what access you would like to have to your money, as some savings accounts require you to give notice before any withdrawals can be made.

You should also try to increase your savings whenever you can.

Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to 'Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.

While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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