The Italian Competition Authority found that "Edates" made it challenging for consumers to cancel subscriptions, sent frequent payment reminders, and made unauthorized credit card withdrawals, violating consumer rights.
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.
The company "Edates" was fined a total of EUR 350,000 for various violations. Specifically, EUR 125,000 of the fine was for engaging in misleading and omissive practices, EUR 175,000 was for employing aggressive practices, and a further EUR 50,000 was imposed for infringing regulations related to consumer rights.
Edates and Italian Competition Authority
Related deceptive patterns
The hidden subscription deceptive pattern typically works by employing some form of sneaking or misdirection. Users think they are buying one thing, when in fact there's a hidden legal stipulation that they are in fact signing up to a recurring subscription. Once they have signed up, the service is usually covert and the user is sent no emails or notifications reminding them that they are paying on a recurring basis, so that payments continue for as long as possible. It is also typically paired up with the hard to cancel deceptive pattern.
Hard to cancel (aka "Roach Motel") is a deceptive pattern where it is easy to sign up for a service or subscription, but very difficult to cancel it. This typically involves hiding the cancellation option, requiring users to call customer services to cancel, and making the cancellation process overly complex and time-consuming. This can cause users to give up trying to cancel, and continue paying for the service for a longer period.
Defines the terms related to advertising, including misleading and comparative advertising, and identifies the advertiser.
Describes the conditions that must be met for comparative advertising to be permitted, including requirements for honesty, fair comparison, non-discrediting of competitors, and clarity regarding special offers.
Prohibits advertising that encourages behavior that is potentially harmful to children.
Requires advertising to provide information about potential health and safety risks associated with products.
Considers all aspects of advertising to determine if it is misleading, including information on products, prices, and the advertiser's attributes and rights.