Through a message she received on her phone, Martine discovered that she had subscribed to a service to watch boxing matches online. The full fee is EUR 4.99 per week. However, the Fasine resident did not claim to have signed any contracts. Martine doesn’t know, but a few clicks are enough to subscribe to such a service.
Martine is used to looking after her grandchildren. And when the weather doesn’t allow for the outdoors, game consoles and home digital tablets can sometimes keep them busy. On a tablet, Livio, the eldest of two, is often interested in downloaded games. While she’s always trying to keep an eye on the screen, Martine has a few minutes of absence from her business. “For example to prepare food”reports the inhabitants of Farciennes.
But a few weeks ago, after a day of caring for her grandkids, Martine got a text that caught her attention. “We got a message from a platform telling us we subscribed to an online boxing service. We thought it was a scam because we never buy anything online. So we didn’t take it seriously”, Remember Martin.
“Yes, yes, that’s what Madam does”
The next day, he received a second message. “We were told the trial period was over and from now on we would have to pay a weekly subscription fee of €4.99”, she explained. This new communication once again shocked Martine. An information number was mentioned in the text message, and she decided to call it. “We called and the lady told us that we would be charged €4.99 on our next Proximus bill”, she explained. Convinced not to subscribe to any online boxing subscriptions, Martine sought some explanation from her interlocutor. This tells him that multiple presses on the ad to sign up for a subscription are enough. “I told her ‘don’t ask for information? No email, no name, or anything? She replied ‘yes, yes, that’s what Mrs.'”, Martin reports.
These methods annoyed the residents of Farciennes, who then decided to turn to his operator, Proximus, to hold them accountable. “In fact, they told me they were going to charge me €4.99 for this platform. I was pissed. I told them ‘you’re helping your customers get robbed by this type of subscription. That’ is an unbelievable story. I was told ‘that’s how it is'”angered Martin.
So she tries to follow the clues of the incident to understand the situation. Apparently, his grandson clicked on an ad while playing on his tablet that allowed him to watch a boxing match. “Clicking on an ad in the game is fast. It’s dishonest. I’m shocked. I can’t accept this. It’s a fraud”, Angry Martin. That’s how the family ended up subscribing to a service that offered martial arts competitions. Only 4.99 euros per week.
We contacted Proximus to find out. “Indeed, it is possible to take out a subscription from a third-party service with a few clicks. During the process, you have to have multiple clicks to get the customer to authenticate. The service is then invoiced via a classic Proximus invoicing”, Explains its spokesman Haroun Fenaux.
A spokesperson told us that it was all about avoiding abuse. Operators want to be transparent to all their customers. “We’re calling on companies to check that content providers are following these procedures. They’re being asked to be transparent about customer information. Companies are there to check that the procedures are well done”, he explained.
Verifying registration takes a few clicks
Specifically, at least 3 clicks are required to verify any subscriptions to third-party services. “You first reach the advertising banner. Click on it and you will be taken to a confirmation screen. When you accept the purchase, you must confirm payment. Once payment is confirmed, the service will be activated”, Operators are summarized on their website.
If despite this, the consumer believes that he has paid for a service without asking for it, then an appeal is possible. “If someone feels abused, they can turn to Proximus. We can help them contact the company and if there is a disagreement, we can help them take steps to compensate them”, Haroun Fenaux guarantee. Before adding: “Overall, across all billed text messages and third-party services, we haven’t seen a spike in issues.”
For its part, however, consumer association Test Achats has assessed complaints in the telecommunications sector for 2021. “Anything related to billing for third-party services came third out of 5,550 complaints received”, Tell our spokesperson Julie Frère.
“We have received many complaints that they found themselves subscribed to paid services that were sometimes relatively expensive. Often, the process requiring explicit and repeated consent from the consumer does not seem to be happening the way it should. Normally, there should be several stage of verification. However, we have so many complaints that we would think that sometimes, just by trying to close the ad window, we end up subscribing to a paid service against his will”the spokesman said.
We want to know who the operator is working with
Before adding: “We want to know who the operators are working with. They tell us they have very strict processes, they check their partners, they make sure consent is collected effectively, but the complaints we’ve received show the opposite. We ask operators to be careful about choosing and their partner.”
Specifically, as Julie Frère explained to us, recourse can be used to challenge subscriptions to third-party services that are not required. It is recommended to enter the dispute. If within 5 days there is no response to the dispute, which is reasonable, the customer is no longer required to pay the invoice amount. “Today, we can dispute these payments directly with the operator or service provider, pay the remaining bill, suspend the payment of the disputed payment, and if there is no response after 5 days, the decision must be considered final”summed up the Test Achats speakers.