Subscription trap? What exactly is that? As the name suggests, subscription traps are where consumers unintentionally subscribe to something. The offers are so cleverly designed that the obligation to pay is not recognisable at first glance.

Therefore, consumers are advised to critically examine all online offers. Especially when personal data is requested. As a rule, registration for a subscription takes place by entering personal data – such as name and address – or the e-mail address in a registration form.

Subscription trap: How to recognise dubious providers immediately! In the following article, we explain which services on the internet are often affected by subscription traps. We also explain the tricks that subscription trap providers use to demand money payments.

Table of contents

  1. Products and services affected by subscription traps
  2. Subscription trap: how does it happen?
  3. Threats to subscribers
  4. How do subscription trap providers claim money?
  5. Subscription traps: consequences for minors?

Products and services affected by subscription traps

Subscription trap: What tricks do providers use?

It doesn’t matter whether you unintentionally click on an advertising link, are affected by a tricky redirection or end up on a false website due to a typing error: Every subscription trap aims to offer services for a fee.

Those affected often do not know that the offers are also available free of charge. Common services and online products offered include:

  • Online games,
  • Sweepstake entries,
  • Driving licence, intelligence and product tests,
  • Films,
  • Music files,
  • In-app purchases,
  • Free SMS
  • and software.

Subscription trap: how does it happen?

Before consumers can benefit from the offers presented here, they have to provide the providers with their personal data. As an ostensible reason, providers often claim that they need the data in order to

  • To be able to send winnings,
  • calculate life expectancy,
  • research ancestry
  • or to carry out a security check.

To keep up appearances, providers usually refrain from asking for bank details. They only ask for the home address and the name.

Since freedom of contract prevails in Germany, providers are allowed to demand monetary payments for their services. This is also permitted if similar products are available free of charge on other websites. However, an important basic condition is that all costs are made transparent through price information.

Price indications are not recognisable

In order to deceive consumers, price information is not clearly recognisable, especially in registration windows. Therefore, many consumers mistakenly assume that registration is free of charge.

Basically, however, they run the risk of entering into a continuing obligation. To ensure that you are spared subscription traps in the future, the lawyers of the Herfurtner law firm explain to you how providers disguise offers that are subject to a fee.

  • Since the currency and price information is written out in the body text, it is difficult to see.
  • Savvy providers place pricing information either below sign-up buttons, in the margins or at the bottom of pages, so users have to scroll all the way down.
  • Sign-up forms are immediately obvious because they are placed in the middle of websites.
  • Providers only refer to the costs in the general terms and conditions (GTC). However, this is illegal.

Keep in mind that contracts against payment are invalid if price information has been deliberately hidden. In such cases, it is obvious that consumers have clicked the confirmation button without being informed of the obligation to pay.

In this context, the suspicion is that the operator of the website has engaged in misleading advertising in order to deceive consumers.

Signs of an Abo Trap in the Imprint

In principle, website operators must state in the imprint

  • the postal address,
  • the legal form,
  • the company name,
  • the VAT identification number,
  • the place of registration
  • and the registration number.

If the information is only partially provided or not provided at all, you can assume that they are providers of subscription traps. These are often letterbox companies based abroad or a private company (Ltd.). The latter is a form of company that only requires one British pound to set up.

It is particularly advantageous for subscription trap providers because there is no liability.

Business directory entry as a subscription trap

Some companies offer entries in their business directories. In doing so, self-employed people and tradespeople sign contracts with high fees and terms of several years without any forethought. In order to be able to collect the sums of money, providers hire debt collection agencies.

As a person affected, you have the possibility not only to free yourself from the claims, but also to demand the return of contributions already paid.

Right of withdrawal also applies after a one-time login

Consumers are often asked to waive their right of withdrawal by clicking on the link during the registration process. Be aware that this waiver is illegal. This is because providers are not allowed to violate regulations on the right of withdrawal so that consumers are disadvantaged.

In principle, the withdrawal period is two weeks. Consumers must be informed of their right of withdrawal in writing in order for the period to begin. If they were only informed after signing the contract, the time limit is one month. Beyond that, there are no time limits if the information was either not given at all or was given incorrectly.

Some providers erroneously claim that the right of withdrawal has expired once consumers have logged on to websites and used services.

How are subscribers threatened?

In the following section, we will inform you about the threats that those affected by subscription traps are often subjected to.

1. Dunning letters as a means of pressure

As soon as consumers do not pay their bills, they often receive reminder letters from lawyers or debt collection agencies. In the reminder letters, they threaten consumers with negative Schufa entries, for example. As long as consumers can convincingly justify why they are not paying the demanded money, the threats are irrelevant.

2. Criminal charges as a drastic step

Some providers of subscription traps intimidate consumers by threatening them with criminal charges. If the threat remains ineffective for the time being, they resort to milder attempts at intimidation instead. In this context, for example, they make consumers a final offer or agree to settle the problem out of court.

Assume that the criminal complaint filed is unlawful if it is a subscription trap.

3. Storage of IP addresses

Providers of subscription traps often store IP addresses of consumers during the registration process. However, this is not proof that a contract has been concluded.

How do providers of subscription traps claim money?

Basically, there are three ways for providers to get their money.

1. Mobile phone bill

It is not uncommon for providers to ask for information about the mobile phone number when signing up. They then try to collect the money with the help of the next mobile phone bill. If you want to be spared this, you have to file an objection and specify which part of the bill you are paying.

2. Bills sent to you

After successful registration, consumers will soon receive their first bill. As a consumer, you can revoke the conclusion of the contract within two weeks of fulfilling the duty to inform.

According to § 312d III BGB (German Civil Code), the contract only expires when both parties have fulfilled the contract in full. This means that consumers must not only have received their services in full, but must also have paid for them.

Since Abo Fallen is a case of fraudulent misrepresentation, you can withdraw from your contract. You can find out how to do this from consumer centres or in a consultation with a lawyer from the Herfurtner law firm.

3. False invoices

Third parties often use consumers’ data. They register for subscriptions under their name. Subsequently, consumers receive invoices from companies that are not known to them. You as a consumer are not obliged to respond to such bills. Instead, the companies have to prove that there is an obligation to pay.

Subscription trap: consequences for minors?

It often happens that minors register on websites with false age information. Subscription trap providers take advantage of this by filing criminal charges for fraud. Parents should be aware, however, that there is no fraud.

This is because it can be assumed that minors, in the course of registering, assumed that they were taking advantage of a free service.

Moreover, a false age statement is not to be regarded as identity falsification, but as a written lie.

Furthermore, it is advisable not to pay demanded bills prematurely. This is because by paying money, it can be assumed that the subscriptions were taken out willingly. Therefore, affected parents should inform providers of subscription traps in writing about their misconduct.

Subscription trap: lawyer helps

Are you confronted with a claim? Before paying, you should talk to one of our lawyers. We will be happy to check the legitimacy of the claim and advise you on how to proceed.