I was going to write about Christmassy things, like binning the festive junk mail coming through the letterbox, checking charity and pound shops for presents, and seeking out free exhibitions and shows over the Festive – when something numbing happened to me.
Two weeks ago I found out I had lost nearly £1,000 over two years on the internet. . . .
Two years ago, late October 2011, I decided to learn about the world of tenders with the vague thought I might copywrite for companies wanting to pitch for EU tenders, or contracts.
I knew nothing about tenders and started to do an introductory course which a company called Qsl-tenders offered online. In order to find out anything I had to sign a free four week trial, part of a 12 month recurring annual fee of £295 .
Within the four weeks I gave up on the Qsl tender course, it was just a look see. I forgot about Qsl from November 2011 to November 2013. The company was apparently placing tenders in my Qsl account on the Qsl website which I never visited.
I was appalled to learn two weeks ago that I hadn’t cancelled my subscription when the free trial period was up. I think I thought I had unsubscribed, because I am terrified of being caught like this. However, it may not have been a correct unsubscribe. I know now, for example, that sending an email to unsubscribe would not have worked.
About 4.30pm on November 13th, 2013, I noticed in my inbox: “shopper worldpay CARD transaction”. For some reason I opened the email, not that its title indicated anything much. We all skip emails we don’t recognise. To my horror I was informed that Worldpay had just taken from me £295 on behalf of its client Qsl, and that this email was the invoice.
I thought it was fraud and got onto NatWest Mastercard immediately. Sadly, it wasn’t. They reminded me that credit cards guarantee to pay automatically whatever is presented to them.
I gave my credit card number when registering with Qsl because I thought I would get better protection. Too late for me, but others might think in terms of a direct debit or even better, a standing order (if allowed), when deciding to go for a free trial or subscription, so you might pick up the money in and out clues.
Qsl took £295 from me the day my four week trial ran out. They took it again on the same day in 2012, and took it yet again in 2013.
I want to remind readers that it pays to look closely at your inbox and also at all bank account and credit card statements for surprise deductions, not to mention the usually no go “small print”. I thought I did some of this, but I missed two deductions, only spotting the third!
The sobering thought is that it could have gone on for years and years. Talk about Charles Saatchi not noticing what was going out of his credit card account.
Anyone can Google Qsl-tenders and see the many, many furious and fed up people who forgot to cancel their four week trial and got stung.
Qsl was set up in 2002 and despite the fury of many clients, they have not softened their approach. They do not warn, they do not remind. And, they are within their rights, says the Trading Standards Authority.
A TSA spokesperson said, “If the terms and conditions are all there, if it is clear what the customer is getting involved with, that he knows about the free trial period and what he will pay for an annual subscription, we cannot do anything. The law doesn’t look at fairness and Qsl has done nothing illegal.”
I didn’t realise this, but the TSA pointed out that the Qsl site is a commercial one and rules and regulations allow a lot less hand holding than they do for a consumer site: “Businesses know that no one offers something for nothing,” warns the TSA. In commerce it is expected that the participants are more thorough at understanding and monitoring their commitments.
Some good news – for me at least. The walking wounded, I put my feelings in a letter to Qsl-tenders and they decided to reimburse my last £295 payment! I appreciate that pay back. Maybe they felt that they had taken enough – nearly £600 for nothing.
However, I feel passionate people should be warned about the potentially crippling aspects of trial periods generally. It would be great if Qsl could think about the spirit of the law a bit, not just the letter. They say they cannot monitor their thousands of subscriptions. If people don’t take the initiative and cancel, what can they do?
This is not good enough. If they wish to be a business of which people speak highly they need to care for their clients, even if these are mostly commercial – and forgetful.
- A consoling aspect of experiencing such a calamity is that just about everyone you speak to can tell an awful internet rip-off story whether it be: insurance of every kind, mobile phones, clothing, publications, PC equipment.
- A lot of people have got burned because they weren’t sharp enough and didn’t read the small print. Trouble is it is carefully designed not to be read. Sadly, we all need to try harder and wade through it.