A few weeks ago, some friends of the family bought some discounted rail tickets online from a reputable company.
In doing so they failed to notice something quite sneaky.
By buying the tickets they had unintentionally signed up to a group discount shopping site called; ‘Shopper Discounts & Rewards’.
They only found out about this when they were checking their monthly credit card bill and found a £10 charge they knew nothing about.
It transpired that the agreement not only joined them to this shopping site, but that they had also ‘agreed’ that the company could take £10 a month out of their account for the privilege of being signed up.
The company claim it is clear when you click through to take advantage of your discount, that you are joining a group shopping site, and that the first thirty days membership are free, but that after that you are being charged a monthly fee for their services, and they make this obvious.
Contrary to this, our friends feel that this was not made clear at all, because if it was, they simply would not have accepted such charges.
They immediately stopped the payment, but then started looking into the company to see if it was a) legitimate and b) whether they had missed something very obvious when they were buying their train ticket which could have forewarned them about what they were signing up to. Something other than reams of small print, which we all know nobody reads in ‘real’ life.
It is a legitimate company but unfortunately our friends are not the only ones who were caught by them, and it seems that our friends are not the only people who did not believe that the company were being entirely open about what happens when you sign up.
There is a whole thread devoted to their activities on Money Saving Expert. They don’t just operate through train companies, but also airlines, and even companies like Pizza Hut and Interflora.
That these reputable companies seem to be endorsing the discount perhaps makes consumers less wary than they might also be. Certainly if the Guardian Money section sub editor can be caught out, as is illustrated in this article from 2010, then anyone can.
The amount that is going out every month is not large, so it can easily slip through the net, and some people interviewed in the Guardian article found that money had been going out of their accounts for two years.
It is quite a time consuming effort to get your money back, and your account subscription cancelled, but it is possible, as our friends have proved, so if you have used online discount vouchers for anything recently, particularly travel related, then do check that you aren’t being silently fleeced by a company you know nothing about.