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