The Italian Competition Authority, has imposed a hefty fine on "Edates," a site for personal encounters among adults managed by the German company "Be Beauty GmbH" in Italy, for engaging in unfair commercial practices. The ICA launched a preliminary investigation into "Edates" following numerous reports from users and two consumer associations, Codacons and "Nero su Bianco," for violations of the Consumer Code. The investigation found that the company used deceptive patterns like forced continuity and hard to cancel to mislead consumers and infringe upon their rights.
The ICA found that "Edates" used deceptive advertising to mislead consumers into unwittingly subscribing to a six-month premium subscription costing EUR 19 a week, for a total of EUR 76 a month, and approximately EUR 500 in total. The company offered free registration to the site or a two-week trial subscription at EUR 4.90, after which consumers were automatically enrolled in the premium subscription. This is an example of forced continuity, a deceptive pattern in which companies require consumers to cancel their subscription actively. In this case, consumers were not adequately informed of the automatic subscription and its cost.
Furthermore, the ICA found that the company made it difficult for consumers to cancel their subscription, violating their contractual rights. The website did not provide clear and accessible information on how to unsubscribe or rescind the contract, making it challenging for consumers to exercise their rights. This is an example of hard to cancel, another deceptive pattern in which companies make it easy to sign up but difficult to cancel. The company also engaged in aggressive practices, sending users repeated reminders for payment and warning them that non-payment would result in debt collection companies. In many cases, the company made direct withdrawals from consumers' credit cards provided upon registration. These practices are both aggressive and coercive, infringing upon consumer rights and exploiting their vulnerability.