Banks have moved to make it easier for consumers to cancel unwanted subscriptions.
The changes are likely to come as a huge relief as many companies make it very difficult for customers who have signed up for services, such as gym memberships and TV and online streaming services, to get out of their contract.
Research in the UK has shown that unwanted subscriptions are costing people an average of €50 a month because they are too difficult to cancel.
Such subscriptions are an arrangement to receive something, typically a publication or an online service, regularly by paying in advance.
However, commentators say that some companies deliberately make it impossible to get out of the contracts.
Others refuse cancellations and request that they are given more notice, often seeking six months’ advance warning.
Some firms force consumers to contact them through their websites, providing no telephone number, then fail to reply to the online messages.
Banks have previously not let customers cancel the contracts and would take instructions only from the provider that set up the subscription.
Dermott Jewell, policy adviser with the Consumers’ Association of Ireland lobby group, said: “The amount of effort any individual has to go through to stop a subscription is ludicrous. People end up giving up and leaving the subscription in place.”
He said that subscriptions were very easy to sign up to but could be difficult for consumers to get out of later.
Daragh Cassidy, of price comparison site Bonkers.ie, said customers could cancel a direct debit by giving advance notice, usually in writing, to their bank and their service provider. Most providers require around a month’s notice. However, banks now allow customers to easily cancel direct debits themselves immediately through their internet banking platforms.
Mr Cassidy said: “While the advice is always to let your provider know you’re cancelling so they don’t keep billing you, this can be handy when a provider has been slow to respond to a customer’s initial cancellation request.”
AIB said it had streamlined its cancellation service for what it called recurring transactions associated with debit or credit cards. It can now take instructions directly from customers and stop the transactions. “Previously, customers had to provide evidence that they had attempted to cancel a recurring transaction directly with the merchant but were continuing to be charged,” the bank said. This facility is available on credit and debit cards but not for wider current account direct debits.
Bank of Ireland said: “With regard to current accounts, recurring payments instigated by merchants would be direct debits, and the customer has the ability to cancel these through the mobile app.”
Ulster Bank said payments linked to cards could be cancelled directly with the bank and account-linked direct debits could be cancelled online through Anytime Banking.
A Permanent TSB spokesperson said: “We can cancel recurring payments if the customer tells us they have tried to do so and had no success.” This applies to both credit and debit card payments.
KBC Bank said it was looking into a way to take instructions from customers to stop card subscriptions.
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