"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!
Many online shops offer discounts with sales messages like "90% off for initial purchase," "Zero yen for initial purchase (postage only)," etc. On the other hand, local consumer affairs centers and the like across Japan have received numerous inquiries and complaints about subscription traps offering health food, cosmetics, beverages, etc. online or via other media.
On June 1, 2022, the revised Act on Specified Commercial Transactions took effect to tighten regulations on fraudulent selling of subscription products. Sellers have been required to clearly indicate basic contract details on the final confirmation screen. Now consumers can withdraw an order which they have placed under a mistaken impression based on seller's misleading description.
- [Case 1]
- Seeing an ad "550 yen for initial purchase," I placed an order for a cosmetic product. I didn't know I made a subscription contract where the price becomes expensive for the second and subsequent purchases.
- [Case 2]
- Seeing an ad "It's possible to cancel anytime," I signed up for a dietary supplement subscription. Later I found that there was a condition to cancel the contract before the second purchase.
Advice for consumers (mainly in online shopping)
If an ad highlights low prices, carefully read description on the shopping site and the final confirmation screen before placing an order
Be sure to carefully read contract details on the final confirmation screen to check whether or not the contract is subscription based, quantity and price for the second and subsequent purchases, terms of cancellation, etc.
The revised Act on Specified Commercial Transactions requires sellers to show contract details on the final confirmation screen (e.g. quantity, price, time and way of payment, delivery date, period of placing an order if there's a deadline, withdrawal of an order, cancellation) so that customers can easily check them just before the order is finalized.
If a seller doesn't show contract details or shows false or misleading description, a consumer who has received a false impression and has placed an order may withdraw the order.
What to check on the final confirmation screen
Before placing an order:
Is it a subscription-based contract?
Read terms and conditions with extra care if ad messages include phrases like "special price for initial purchase," "_month course," "regular course," etc.
(In case of a subscription-based contract) Does the contract require you to buy the product more than certain times or over a certain period of time?
Read terms and conditions with care if there are messages like "You can cancel the contract after you receiving the _th delivery," "This contract requires you to buy the product _times," etc.
How much is the total amount you are going to pay?
The quantity of the second and subsequent deliveries may be different from the quantity of the initial delivery. The unit price for the second and subsequent deliveries may be different from the price for the initial delivery.
Did you confirm means of communication to cancel the contract?
If the means of communication are limited to telephone and a certain message app, remember you may not be able to get through to the seller and you may not be able to manipulate the message app.
Did you read terms of cancellation? (e.g. availability of cancellation and returning goods, special provision for cancellation and returning goods)
Particularly if there is a deadline for requesting cancellation (e.g. "It's possible to cancel if you contact us _days before the next delivery"), read terms of cancellation to check the deadline for requesting cancellation, and cancellation fee if any.
Have you copied the final confirmation screen with the screen shot?
The data will be a proof to facilitate cancellation.
If a contract signatory is a minor, check the following as well*
- If there is a checkbox "I have obtained consensus of my legal representative" on the shopping site, did you obtain the consensus before marking the checkbox?
- Did you enter your birthday and age correctly? Or did you misrepresent your age to pretend to be an adult?
- * A minor may freely dispose of property that the minor's legal representative has permitted the minor to dispose of for a specified purpose, to an extent that falls within the scope of that purpose. The same applies if a minor disposes of property that the minor's legal representative has permitted the minor to dispose of without specifying a purpose. If a minor uses fraudulent means to induce another person to believe that the minor is an adult to make a contract or to believe that the minor obtained consent of the minor's legal representative to make a contract, the minor may not rescind the contract in principle.