Warning issued over free trials on internet
Dublin-based consumer group the European Consumer Centre (ECC) has warned people to be careful about signing up for free trials online.
The ECC said that it receives complaints every week from people who have lost large sums of money after signing up to free trials of products advertised online. "The consumers thought they were only paying for postage and packaging but later discovered they had unwittingly signed up to an ongoing subscription," it said in its newsletter.
"Exercise caution when responding to spam email or pop-up ads, especially from unknown traders. Carefully check that you understand all of the terms and conditions when entering into a contract and be satisfied that you fully understand what you are agreeing to."
Car rental is another area where consumers are particularly vulnerable, according to the ECC. Car rental was the third biggest trigger of complaints to the ECC in 2012.
About half of the complaints about car rental arose after consumers were hit with extra charges when they returned the car.
"Some car rental companies may not include all costs in the price quoted and so the final price to be paid may be more than expected," said the ECC. "In particular, fuel policies can often cause confusion for consumers.
"Generally consumers must ensure that the tank is full when returning the car, otherwise they will be charged to cover the cost of refuelling – often at an inflated rate.
"However, some car rental companies operate a 'collect full, return empty' policy in which no refunds are given for unused fuel at the end of the rental period. As it is impossible to return the car with an empty tank, we recommend consumers watch out for this type of fuel policy and avoid it."