Budget to set out plans for clarifying small print and ending subscription traps


Plans to sweep away confusing small print and end the cycle of subscription traps will be set out in the Budget.

A crackdown on practices by firms which lead to people wasting their money will be outlined by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

The moves follow concerns that many people only "skim read" lengthy terms and conditions and some may fall into a subscription trap by inadvertently signing up for an automatic paid subscription service after a free trial has ended.

The Government plans to develop options to stop people paying unexpected automatic fees for unwanted subscriptions, including ensuring consumers are alerted in good time when a payment is about to be taken.

Citizens Advice estimates that two million consumers each year have problems cancelling subscriptions.

Research last year revealed that more than two-fifths (42%) of Britons are paying for at least one subscription they do not use, such as gym memberships, credit reports, TV streaming services and music streaming plans.

Ways of making small print shorter and clearer to customers will also be examined. Terms and conditions can often be tens of thousands of words long.

Which? found that nine in 10 people have agreed to terms and conditions when buying a product or service online in the last year, but only 16% always read them.

There will also be new powers to impose fines on companies that treat customers badly.

The Government will allow consumer enforcement bodies such as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to ask civil courts to order fines against companies, including those in unregulated markets, which breach consumer law.

It believes this will also act as a deterrent to discourage firms from mistreating consumers.