Surge of inquiries about regular purchase! "Although I intended to try with discount, a regular purchase contract was made," "Unable to cancel," "Too expensive to afford", etc.
There are many discount offers online such as "90% discount for the initial purchase," "Free for the initial purchase (shipping cost only)," and so on. Actually, some of the discount offers are provided only for customers signing a regular purchase contract. Local consumer affairs centers and the like across Japan have received increasing number of inquiries and complaints about regular purchase of heath foods, beverages, cosmetics or other products. The number of such inquiries in FY2019 registered with PIO-NET* amounted to 29,177 (as of November 30, 2019), which represents about 230% increase compared to the same month in the previous year and already exceeds the FY2018 total of 23,002.
Diagram: Transition in the annual number of inquiries about online regular purchase
- *1 It shows the number in the comparable year-ago period (12,834 as of November 30, 2018)
- *2 The number in FY2019 shows data registered from April through November in 2019.
The number of cases amounted to 1,925 in FY2014, 5,922 in FY2015, 14,909 in FY2016, 19,261 in FY2017, 23,002 in FY2018, and 29,177 in FY2019 as of November 30, 2019 (The number in the comparable year-ago period amounted to 12,834).
- * PIO-NET is a database that collects information on inquiries concerning consumer affairs by linking NCAC with local consumer affairs centers and similar organizations across Japan via an online network. PIO-NET does not include inquiries referred from local consumer affairs centers and the like to NCAC. This article uses data registered with PIO-NET through November 30, 2019.
Sampling of inquiries and complaints
Although I intended to buy once to try, regular purchase was one of the conditions for discount.
I saw an ad on a video site saying "slimming supplement, 500 yen to try it". I placed an order and received the product. After a while, one more package was delivered to me with a bill of about 6,500 yen. I was surprised and asked the seller about the second delivery. The seller said, "Under the contract, you are supposed to buy it at least five times." I intended to buy it once at 500 yen to try and never thought that regular purchase was one of the conditions for discount. When I placed an order, such a high price was not shown on the confirmation page. I saw nothing to explain that regular purchase was one of the conditions. If I knew that the price would be so expensive, I would have not placed an order. I am dissatisfied with the seller's excuse.
- Several months' supply was delivered to me the second time.
- I placed an order, feeling pressed by a countdown. Afterwards, I noticed that regular purchase was one of the conditions.
- I was told that I had to pay the regular price in order to cancel the regular purchase contract.
- A cancellation guarantee was offered only for customers buying at a regular price.
- I tried to cancel a regular purchase contract which was stated cancellable anytime, but the seller told me it was not in the cancellation request period.
- Being unable to get through to the seller, I cannot apply for cancellation.
- When I applied for cancellation because of my health problems, the seller requested me to submit a medical certificate.
Characteristics and problems highlighted from sampling of inquiries and complaints
- It was difficult to notice that regular purchase was one of the conditions for discount.
- Consumers placed an order after seeing SNS ads or video ads without sufficient description of terms and conditions.
- It was not easy to find cancellation conditions.
- Consumers were unable to get through to the seller.
- Consumers had to pay more than initially expected.
Advice for consumers
- Carefully read terms and conditions to see if regular purchase is one of the conditions, how much you need to pay in total, etc.
- Confirm if it's possible to cancel a contract. If it's possible, read cancellation and return policy.
- Keep records of communication with the seller.
- In case of trouble or concern, consult your local consumer affairs center.