Beware of subscription traps offering health food, etc.
Seeing an ad "500-yen diet supplement" on a video site, I placed an order for it on a shopping site. At a later date, the product arrived. Three weeks later, the same product arrived. I found a bill for 5,000 yen in the parcel. When I asked the seller about the second delivery on the phone, the seller said, "You have signed a subscription for four or more deliveries. The unit price for the second and subsequent deliveries is 5,000 yen." I said, "I didn't know that I made a subscription contract." The seller replied, "Contract details are written on the shopping site."
(woman in her 20s)
Problems and Advice
An increasing number of young consumers have got in trouble over online subscription traps offering health food, cosmetics or beverages.
(1) Online and mail order sales are not subject to the cooling-off rule
Online and mail order sales are not subject to the cooling-off rule. If sellers have set special provisions on returns, you can return goods in line with the special provisions. If terms and conditions state "Customers may not return goods after placing an order," it is difficult to return goods.
(2) Check every detail particularly when an ad emphasizes low prices!
When a consumer sees an ad emphasizing low prices and place an order intending to try it once, the consumer may enter into a subscription contract without knowing it and may have to pay tens of thousand yen in total. Even if the ad says "You can cancel anytime," it may be difficult to cancel the contract through limited means of communications.
(3) Read the shopping site in every detail before placing an order!
First of all, check whether or not the contract you are going to make is subscription based. If the contract is subscription based, check the minimum period or number of purchases required, the total amount you are going to pay, means of communication to cancel the contract, availability of cancellation and returning goods, special provisions for cancellation and returning goods, etc. Copy screens and emails by screenshot when placing an order so that you can keep the record.
If you cannot get through to the seller when you want to cancel a contract, keep the record of trying to contact the seller (e.g. telephone, email, etc.)
(4) Revised Act on Specified Commercial Transactions took effect to tighten regulations on fraudulent selling of subscription products!
On June 1, 2022, the revised Act on Specified Commercial Transactions took effect to tighten regulations on fraudulent selling of subscription products.
Specifically, additional elements are as follows:
- Direct punishment against problematic description misleading consumers to think that a contract is not subscription based
- New system to allow consumers to rescind an order which was placed based on problematic description misleading consumers to think that a contract is not subscription based
- Prohibition of conduct constituting an obstacle to canceling a contract in online or mail order sales
- Qualified Consumer Organizations can file an injunction against problematic description misleading consumers to think that a contract is not subscription based and against an obstacle to canceling a contract
(5) Reaching adulthood at the age of 18 under the revised Civil Code
While adults can enter into a contract on their own, they cannot unilaterally rescind a contract, unlike minors.
- "Advice for young consumers No.3: Trouble over subscription traps offering health food, etc. - I just wanted to try it once, but a subscription contract was made!" released by NCAC on June 17, 2021(Japanese version)
- "Although I just wanted to try it with a discount, a subscription contract was made! - revised Act on Specified Commercial Transactions takes effect to crack down on subscription traps!" released by NCAC on June 9, 2022(Japanese version)