Adaptive Affinity was held liable as its consumers were being signed up to online credit score and discount reward membership schemes and being charged a monthly subscription fee for each service.
Adaptive Affinity Limited, which operates multiple membership schemes that offer shopping discount rewards and credit protection services, was investigated by the OFT on its own initiative. Customers are enrolled in these schemes through various Adaptive Affinity websites, which may be presented to them through different mechanisms, such as pop-ups or search engines, sometimes following another transaction or the sign-up process for a separate Adaptive Affinity scheme. Customers are charged from £9.95 to £29.95 per month for each membership scheme they are signed up for, with some being signed up for two, resulting in charges of up to £59.90 per month. The OFT was concerned that Adaptive Affinity Limited was not taking enough measures to ensure that customers were aware of their payment liabilities. Some customers only found out they had been enrolled in the membership schemes after seeing the charges on their bank statements.
During the investigation, the OFT reviewed customer complaints and information provided by Adaptive Affinity Limited, including the information presented to consumers on its websites. The OFT found that Adaptive Affinity Limited may have breached certain provisions of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs), as it failed to provide clear information to consumers about the terms of the contract, the nature of the service provided, and the time when they would incur a monthly charge if they did not cancel their subscription during the trial period. Customers were not adequately informed about the consequences of accepting an offer that claimed to be free, a gift, or a reward, and they were not made aware of being signed up for a service or the associated charges. Additionally, Adaptive Affinity Limited did not have sufficient procedures in place to review advertising material produced and circulated by its partners and affiliates on its behalf or to control their conduct and actions. Lastly, some of the standard terms and conditions of its membership schemes contained potentially unfair terms.
Adaptive Affinity Limited agreed to not mislead consumers by providing clear information about financial details, authorisation process, legally binding agreement, service charges, and membership schemes, and to not use contract terms that allow increasing fees without notification, and to ensure procedures are in place to detect misleading advertisements and restore consumers' positions.
Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Adaptive Affinity Limited
Adaptive Affinity - CRE-E/25810
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.
Sneaking involves intentionally withholding or obscuring information that is relevant to the user (e.g. additional costs or unwanted consequences), often in order to manipulate them into taking an action they would not otherwise choose.
Prohibit traders across all sectors from using unfair commercial practices that hinder consumers from making informed purchasing decisions.
Aim to protect consumers against unfair standard terms in standard term contracts.