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ConsuWijzer mid-year bulletin: unsolicited subscriptions are number one annoyance

26-07-2017

Unsolicited telemarketing calls in which you are offered subscriptions that are then nearly impossible to get rid of: this is the current number one annoyance among consumers. This has been revealed by the biannual figures of ConsuWijzer, the consumer information portal operated by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). These subscriptions include subscriptions to discount websites, hotel deals, prize contests, and other services.

ConsuWijzer has been receiving noticeably a lot of indications about aggressive telemarketing calls regarding subscriptions. These indications reveal that consumers are insufficiently aware of what their rights are. They let themselves be pressured into paying for such unsolicited subscriptions, while never having agreed to such offers in writing.

Bernadette van Buchem, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: “The fact that these kinds of telemarketers target vulnerable consumers such as seniors is quite dishonorable. That is why it is important that consumers know their rights and know what they can do. We are calling on consumers to pay for offers only if they have agreed to them in writing. That is the only way to render these kinds of practices no longer appealing to businesses.”

Over the next few months, ACM will keep a close watch on the compliance with the written-consent requirement and the rules for telemarketing. ACM will not hesitate to take enforcement action against businesses that do not comply with the rules.

Written consent is required with telemarketing calls

If a business sells subscriptions over the phone, it must send a paper copy of the offer first. An agreement is only valid if you have agreed to the offer in writing. To agree in writing means that you sign the offer, or that you send an email or letter stating that you agree to it. Without a signature, the agreement is invalid, and you do not have to pay anything. This is the so-called ‘written-consent requirement’.

Similarly, do not pay if you receive a debt collection letter or if a debt collection agency threatens you with a summons or high costs. Are you dealing with these kinds of practices? Go to ConsuWijzer (in Dutch) for more information.

Other facts and figures of ConsuWijzer

Numerous consumers know the way to ACM’s consumer information portal Consuwijzer.nl. It was visited 1.4 million times over the past six months. The sample letters on Consuwijzer.nl, which has over a hundred of them, were viewed nearly 210,000 times. ConsuWijzer’s customer advisers answered 28,000 calls and emails from consumers. In addition, ConsuWijzer’s Facebook posts reached 1.1 million unique visitors. ConsuWijzer currently has 42,000 followers on Facebook.

The most popular topics on ConsuWijzer.nl

Pages that were visited the most:

  • What can I do against aggressive telemarketing calls?
  • How does the Do-not-call-me Register work? How do I block phone numbers?
  • How do I get rid of unsolicited follow-up shipments or unsolicited subscriptions?
  • How do I cancel my subscription or contract?
  • How do I object against automatic renewals?
  • The product is faulty, what can I do? Am I entitled to a warranty?
  • New statutory tariffs for using your mobile phone to surf the web and text in other EU countries (roaming). 

Results regarding consumer protection regulations

Indications from consumers help ACM identify what businesses violate regulations, so that it can take action against them, for example, by issuing a warning or imposing a fine. Such fines can be as high as EUR 900,000 per violation. In the first six months of 2017, ACM successfully took action against dozens of businesses. Below is a selection of the results:

  • Energy supplier Oxxio was fined EUR 1 million for the incorrect registration of customer data. Because of Oxxio’s faulty registration, it was harder for customers to switch to other providers;
  • Thanks to ACM’s intervention, consumers are better able to compare prices of new cars. Car dealers are no longer allowed to advertise with misleading prices that do not include all unavoidable costs;
  • When selling or renting out their homes, consumers must have a mandatory energy label. In part because of ACM’s intervention, the information that consumers receive about the price and service of a mandatory energy label has been improved;
  • ACM issued guidelines for publishing online reviews, and informed consumers about the reliability of customer reviews;
  • Together with the Dutch Data Protection Authority (the Dutch DPA), ACM contacted StemWijzer.nl, a Dutch voting advice website, regarding the use of cookies, so that consumers were able to generate voting advice securely;
  • From July 1, energy suppliers risk a fine if they do not send verifiable and comprehensible energy bills to customers;
     
  • File your complaint with ConsuWijzer (in Dutch)