Money Wellness
Black bank card with warning sign
category iconMoney Saver
calendar icon08 Mar 2024

Accidental subscription spending doubles, but how can you stop your subscriptions and save money?

Citizens Advice has warned that the amount customers spent on accidental subscriptions that are easy to get into but hard to cancel has doubled in a year.

Their research found that more than 13 million people have accidentally taken out a subscription in the past 12 months, from fitness apps to food delivery services and pet food.

Overall, these unused subscriptions cost customers on a whole £688m last year, up from £306m at the end of 2022.

While there is no evidence to show why the amount has doubled, it highlights that the problem of subscription traps is getting worse.

The research found that of people who ended up with an accidental subscription, the most common reason for it was because it auto-renewed without their knowledge.

This was followed by people who signed up for a free trial but forgot to cancel it later on.

A quarter thought that they were making a one-off payment.

Citizens Advice has urged the government to clamp down on the practice of subscription traps as the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill becomes law. It wants customers to be offered a choice over whether their subscriptions auto-renew and if they want to continue with them at the end of a free trial.

How do I cancel subscriptions to save money?

Subscription traps can be misleading, but you might find you’re paying more than you thought for legitimate services that you don’t use anymore.

Many businesses will take your money for subscription services by using a continuous payment authority (CPA), which are harder to spot on your bank statements. These are recurring payments set up by a company or service you’ve subscribed to that don’t show up on your regular payment list.

You might be using a CPA to pay for gym memberships, breakdown cover, streaming services, software protection, magazines and insurance policies.

 CPAs are legitimate though, as the business will have your permission to take payments when they’re due from your account using your card details. The business must prove they’ve got your permission to do this, and if they’re questioned about it and can’t prove this, you should get your money back.

But in cases where you have given your permission, you can cancel a CPA by getting in touch with the business.

If you’re not in a contract with them and they refuse, you can then contact your bank to stop them. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said banks have to cancel a CPA when asked:

 'You have the right to cancel them directly with your bank or card issuer by telling it you have stopped permission for the payments. Your bank or card issuer must then stop them – it has no right to insist that you agree this first with the company taking the payments.'

 How to spot a CPA

Some banks do show CPA’s in online banking (it could be under ‘scheduled payments’ or ‘subscriptions’).

If your bank doesn’t show CPA’s clearly, they’ll just show up like any other card payment on your statement.

They’re also harder to spot because payments and payees sometimes appear as random letters and numbers.

To find any possible CPAs, comb through your statement to check for any payments you either don't recognise or are for services you no longer need. Then you can contact the company to cancel the CPA. Be sure to check any online payment accounts you may have like PayPal too.

Avatar of Lydia Bell-Jones

Lydia Bell-Jones

With a background in banking, Lydia has been writing professionally for over five years. She is passionate about helping people improve their personal finances and has a particular interest in the connection between money and mental health.

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