Tricky, some dubious companies try to sell consumers a subscription on the phone for gambling or dietary supplements, for example. How to spot the scam.
When calling rip-off: The fraudulent phone calls often do not clearly state that a paid subscription is concluded. If those affected then do not keep an eye on their account movements, major financial damage can occur.
In Germany, advertising calls are not permitted without the prior consent of the called party. But it happens again and again that companies contact consumers by telephone without consent.
This is how the scam of dubious subscription trap companies works
The callers often disguise the true background of their call, for example, they present themselves as an opinion research institute. Or the impression is created that the person called has won something – for example, sample packages for a product. Sometimes they are told that they participated in a free sweepstakes subscription, which is now subject to a charge.
In order to get the promised winnings or to shorten subscription periods, those called are persuaded to give their bank details in the telephone call. The callers record parts of the call. The recordings can then be manipulated so that they appear to be verbal consent to a contract.
When is a contract concluded on the phone legally valid?
A contract concluded on the phone can also be legally valid in principle. However, a number of conditions must be met. The callers must, for example, give notice periods and prices and point out the right of withdrawal. However, the situation is different for games of chance: There, contracts are only concluded with the written consent of the customer.
New regulations for energy suppliers and mobile phone providers
In July 2021, the legislature introduced a very decisive change for energy suppliers that makes it more difficult to conclude contracts by telephone. Electricity and gas providers can now only have a contract with the consumer confirmed in text form. This can be done by mail, by e-mail or even as an SMS message.
Similar applies to mobile phone contracts. If a contract is concluded over the phone, the provider must then immediately provide information in text form and have the contract approved in text form. As long as this is the case, the contract is suspended and therefore invalid. This new regulation applies since December 2021.
How do subscription trap scammers get contact data??
The companies often obtain the contact data of the called parties from address dealers. These in turn receive the addresses when consumers participate in sweepstakes and thereby give their consent to be contacted by advertisers. However, the callers do not always have such consent.
Correct behavior in the event of advertising calls
In general, a good protection against advertising calls is to be as sparing as possible with the disclosure of one’s telephone number and other personal data and to reconsider participation in competitions.
In the case of advertising calls:
- End the telephone call as soon as possible. The statement: "Not interested and hanging up the phone are a good form of protection.
- If possible, not the word "Yes say, instead answer in complete sentences.
- Do not give out personal data.
- Make a note of the caller’s telephone number and the time of the call. Then inform the Federal Network Agency.
- If the caller’s phone number is not displayed, ask for it.
- If the calls accumulate, it may make sense to change the telephone number.
Help with unsolicited merchandise
If goods are sent without having been ordered, these steps can help:
- Do not pay the bill, reject reminders and collection letters.
- Object in writing to allegedly concluded purchase or subscription contracts.
- Clearly indicate that no purchase contract has been concluded. Cancel the alleged contract anyway.
- There is no obligation to return unsolicited merchandise.
Help with bills and direct debits
If invoices come for a supposedly concluded subscription or if the bank account is debited for this:
- Submit a written objection
- Contact bank, stop SEPA mandate. Without written consent, the bank must charge back the amounts for the last 13 months
- Regularly check account transactions
Subscription traps on the phone: Here’s where to get help
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