Questions Of Cash: I ended up being charged for my 'free trial'

 

Q. In February I booked some tickets with Flybe. At the end of the transaction I was offered a cashback of £20 if I took out a free 30-day trial with Rewards First. I accepted this offer, but cancelled before the end of the trial, on 29 Feb 2012.

When I received my next credit card statement I found an unauthorised debit of £14.95 to Credit Rating Matters. I rang Rewards First and was told that it was the same company and they had sent an email warning me of this deduction. I received no such email and nothing on the emails from Rewards First mentioned this subscription. I did not authorise this subscription and had no knowledge of it. As far as I can see, this is identical to cases investigated by the Office of Fair Trading last year. MN, Hampshire

A. Rewards First, Credit Rating Matters, QuickCreditScore, HighCreditScore, CreditScoreMatters, High Street Max and Rewards Now are all trading names of Adaptive Affinity Ltd, which was the subject of an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading. This was completed in December last year. The OFT undertook the investigation because of concerns that some consumers had unwittingly signed up to online subscription schemes, which in some instances were costing them monthly fees of almost £60.

The OFT was concerned that some consumers wrongly believed that the credit score service was free; did not realise they had entered into a binding contract; thought they had supplied credit card details only for the purposes of identification, not for payment; and only realised that payments were being taken from their accounts when they received statements from their banks. Adaptive Affinity fully co-operated with the OFT investigation and provided what the OFT termed "comprehensive undertakings" that addressed the investigated concerns.

Adaptive Affinity provided us with a detailed statement regarding your complaint. A spokeswoman for the company said: "[The reader] did enrol to the Rewards First programme on 9 February 2012, cancelling her membership within the 30 days' free trial period on 29 February 2012. I believe that there are no questions surrounding the sign-up to this programme and that [the reader's] questions relate to the programme Credit Rating Matters." The company says that it is only after a person has signed up with Rewards First that they may be presented with an offer to join Credit Rating Matters on a free 10-day trial. It says that the terms for this are set out clearly in that offer. Adaptive Affinity insists that payment details are not obtained from a partner, such as Flybe.

The spokeswoman continues: "Like with the Rewards First programme, an email is sent to the member upon registration. Our records show that an email confirming registration was sent to [the reader's] email address. This was the same email address to which the Rewards First emails were sent. The emails in connection with both programmes were delivered successfully.

Adaptive has never knowingly misled consumers; everyone who signs up to its products have to provide the necessary details requested on the sign up page(s) and accept the terms and conditions of the relevant programme. Our practices include and have always included multiple disclosures about how and when a member will be charged and how they can cancel... Following our discussions with the OFT in 2011, Adaptive agreed to make a number of changes to its sign-up process. Adaptive fully complied and remains fully compliant with these changes and implemented all the changes requested in 2011."

The company adds that it despatched the promised £20 cashback to you within the agreed timeframe of four to six weeks and that this had been processed at the time we took up your complaint. In addition, the company is refunding your £14.95 payment to Credit Rating Matters "as a goodwill gesture".

Q. I read the letter from your reader SM of Dorset about her problems with Thomas Cook vouchers that she had given to her son, but which he was unable to use online (Questions of Cash, 10 March). I have had a similar problem with Jet2. I was very kindly given £150 worth of Jet2 gift vouchers for my birthday in January. I looked at the Jet2 website to see where we could go for either a weekend break or a week's holiday.

I read the terms and conditions, then called the number printed on the back of the voucher to reserve two return flights to Palma from Glasgow. When I eventually got through, I was able to confirm the dates and flight details, but these were not available at the same prices as displayed on the website. Instead, the flights were £15 more expensive on the way out and £20 more expensive on the way back.

In addition, because we were booking through the call centre, there was a fee of £25 extra per person per flight. This added a whopping £170 to the cost of exactly the same flights if we had booked them online! Why does Jet2 not have the facility available to pay by gift vouchers online? And why such a huge cost in extra charges? Is this fair and just? Consequently, we booked the flights online and have our gift vouchers lying in a drawer! CL, Glasgow

A. Jet2.com accepts the criticism and will amend its systems. A spokeswoman for the airline says: "We are currently reviewing the process for gift vouchers and will contact the customer in question once this new system is in place, so they can redeem their voucher." Questions of Cash is keen to hear from any other readers who have had problems in using gift vouchers online, or who have found that prices for products or services are higher when paying by vouchers than by other means.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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