Zum Inhalt
Men's and women's hands hold out smartphones to each other, on which the man and the woman each hold out a kissing mouth
Nowadays, about 40% of partnerships in Austria are initiated via the Internet Image: Antonio Diaz / Shutterstock

Dating agency subscription trap - not only for Valentine's Day

, last updated

There is an unmanageable number of dating sites, and they use Valentine's Day massively for advertising purposes. Unfortunately, many of these flirting portals are non-transparent and dubious to varying degrees. The ECC receives complaints about companies such as maturetenders.com (or one of the other 26 domains of Howlogic KFT from Hungary), C-Date (of Interdate S.A. from Luxembourg), Parship (of PE Digital GmbH from Germany), 50sLove (and other similar domains of Alpha Internet Services GmbH from Austria) regularly, not only on Valentine's Day.

Woman looks sceptically at her smartphone
Image: Pathdoc / Shutterstock

Such advertising targets the desires of lonely people. Suitable partners are offered in order to get interested people to sign up for the subscription and download the corresponding app. Trial subscriptions on platforms for dating, casual dating or erotic portals are in high season. Normally, these trial offers turn into a normal paid subscription. Unfortunately, providers often play dirty tricks here, which make it difficult to get out in time before the changeover to a paid subscription. Legal protection mechanisms are often disregarded when automatically switching from a trial to a normal paid subscription.

Subscription cost trap

A classic subscription trap offers a free trial period during registration or a trial membership for symbolic amounts. This then suddenly turns into an expensive affair. Companies like to withhold the information from their subscribers that doing nothing will lead to a paid membership when the trial period ends. Often, they overlook the crucial information in the small print that only the first few weeks or even just the registration are free of charge. The cold shower then comes with the incoming invoice for an expensive full annual membership.

Pictogram about "Caught in subscription trap"

Caught in subscription trap

Graphic of a stunned man holding a smartphone with a hand stealing money from the man's trouser pocket
Image: Daren Woodward / Shutterstock

Fake Profile

In the case of particularly dubious portals, you can also assume that the profiles of potential love partners that appear are largely fiction. These profiles and conversations are maintained by paid moderators in order to stall users. A few years ago, the Bavarian consumer protection agency even found and published references and clauses to the use of fake profiles in the public terms and conditions of 187 dating portals. Due to the number of unreported cases, the simple increase in the number of portals since publication, as well as the technical progress in chatbots and artificial intelligence, one can assume the increased use of fake partner profiles and fake members in chats.

Getting out of the subscription trap

What to do if caught in subscription trap?

Subscription traps often disregard Austrian consumer protection laws. These apply to users who are resident in Austria, even if a portal (see imprint of the portal page) is located in another EU country. Unwanted subscriptions can be combated on the basis of the following domestic consumer protection rules:

Pictogram on round dark green background shows two paragraphs of text with large paragaph symbols on the side

Use protective laws

  • Tough for companies, fair for you: If you are not informed of the total price directly when ordering the trial subscription by means of a button as described in § 8 Abs 2 (FAGG), which clearly indicates an obligation to pay, you are not bound to the contract and do not have to pay! Valid would be the inscription of the order button e.g. with payment obligatory, order with costs, not valid would be inscriptions such as book, order or continue. In addition, the total costs for the contractually agreed period (billing period) and the monthly costs must be sufficiently pointed out in the ordering process (§ 4 para 1 no. 5 FAGG). Often, only the amount of the first membership fee is mentioned - if at all. The company must clearly inform you about the term and renewals, firstly when concluding the contract (order/booking) as just described and then a second time before a renewal.
  • Because according to Austrian law, companies cannot simply extend (trial) subscriptions as they please. On the contrary: you have to point out to consumers according to § 6 paragraph (1) Z.2 of the Consumer Protection Act that the trial period will be extended. And in good time so that you have enough time to explain that you are no longer interested within this reasonable period of time. It should be noted that this type of contract extension is only permissible if this has already been made clear at least in the company's general terms and conditions. If the company does not comply with this (according to § 4 Paragraph 1 Z.14 and Z.15 Austrian FAGG), then they have not informed correctly about the conditions and term.

  • Formal mistakes: The company has not sent you the text of the contract or the notice of the forthcoming contract extension on any durable medium (e.g. by email). A mere notice in an online customer portal, which you may not have logged into for a long time, or an email with a vague subject and a link to somewhere that explains the possibility of opting out of the trial subscription, is definitely not enough. If you have not received such a sufficient notification, then the assertion that the contract has been extended with costs is simply wrong. There is no new contract! The contractual relationship expired with the test phase.

Have you tried out a test subscription and now find yourself caught in a subscription trap? If one of the points described above corresponds to your experience, you can send the following sample letter to the company offering the subscription:

If you have paid for a dubious subscription by direct debit, credit card or PayPal, apply for a chargeback procedure with your payment service provider and have the payment reversed. Since the beginning of 2023, the largest credit card operators Visa, Mastercard and American Express have committed to separately pointing out subscription payments in the payment process (see our article). If subscription sellers do not provide all the essential information in the confirmation window for such a credit card payment (amount of the initial payment, debit interval, total costs, term), you can send us (EVZ) a complaint about this.

Pictogram about "ECC giving a hint"

ECC giving a hint


Share this post

Facebook Twitter Drucken E-Mail

This could also be of interest:

Compensation for fraudulent "Next Gen" draws

Compensation for fraudulent "Next Gen" draws

Since 2013, the US company Next Gen Inc. has been active with various dubious raffles on social media such as Facebook. Mostly elderly people fell for their alleged prize draws and lotteries. As of today, victims from Austria have the opportunity to recover part of the damages they suffered.

Microsoft Scam

Microsoft Scam

Alleged Microsoft employees call, send emails or pretend to be tech support in response to fake error messages in order to pull off various scams. Here is a summary and tips on how to behave.

Zum Seitenanfang