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As a description of such debits, there is usually only a provider name and address on the invoice - and the amount that is debited. Subscription traps on smartphones or tablets with a mobile phone contract and SIM card are particularly perfidious: Third-party providers - i.e. providers other than the actual mobile phone provider - can collect the fees directly from the mobile phone bill.

Dubious companies do this in such a way that users do not initially notice that they have even taken out a subscription. An unknown item is not noticed until the next monthly invoice.

Where are cost traps lurking?

Cost traps are often hidden in the advertising banners of apps, for example for games. Users can take out a subscription simply by clicking away an advertising window or a notification without looking closely what is there. As a result, the telephone number is transmitted to the provider in the background - unnoticed by the user. He then uses the number to invoice the chargeable services directly from the mobile operator.

Traps also lurk when it comes to lure offers in game apps, free trial offers for streaming services and much more. There have also been reports of such subscription traps on the popular WhatsApp messenger app. For example, users are offered the opportunity to receive game credits for free. Children and young people in particular like to take advantage of such offers without paying attention to their parents' warnings. Even if they receive a confirmation SMS: Often the information on how to cancel the unwanted subscription is not included there.

There are clear legal regulations on consumer protection: Suppliers must explicitly point out purchases, for example using a button with unmistakable wording such as "Buy now" or "Order now". It is also required that the information on how the subscription can be canceled must be easily accessible. Unfortunately, not all providers adhere to this.

Over the past year, cellular network operators have made serious efforts to curb third-party fraud. In our post, Third Party Costs: Clean Market Operation, we explain the measures and what they bring.

Anyone who wants to take action against such cost traps should also know that children and young people are not fully competent. Reputable vendors should get parental consent before selling anything to teenagers.

What can i do if i fell in?

The problem is: Even if the contract between user and provider is not legally valid, the money is gone for the time being. Unfortunately, it is not that easy to get out of the subscription trap and get your money back. The following steps can be helpful:

  • The first point of contact is your own mobile phone provider. Users should first contact them, contradict the invoice and ask for their money back. It's easier said than done. The mobile network operators usually refer to the third party provider. This is legally controversial, as there is usually no contract with the third party provider.
  • Reduce the cell phone bill by the controversial amount - Some consumer advocates and lawyers recommend this. However, you run the risk that the mobile operator will block the connection. Normally the providers are not allowed to do this, but in practice it often happens.
  • Cancel subscription or service with a third-party provider: It is a legal requirement that the name and address of the company appear on the invoice. However, it is not necessary to specify which service was delivered. It is therefore easiest to object to the claim in writing by registered mail and, alternatively, to terminate the service. In the alternative, so that one does not recognize in retrospect that a contract existed.
  • Seek advice: Unfortunately, there is currently no satisfactory solution to this type of rip-off. It is advisable to seek personal advice from consumer advice centers or specialized lawyers. An overview of the consumer advice centers for the individual federal states can be found at the end of the further information.

Prevention: what can I do to protect myself?

Precisely because it is so difficult to get your money back, you should try not to fall into a subscription trap in the first place.

  • Check the invoice regularly: Sounds banal, but many don't: Check regularly whether the items on the mobile phone bill are correct. The longer you wait, the greater the damage.
  • Note the confirmation SMS and other messages: Don't just click away notes on your smartphone, read them! Point out to children and young people in particular the financial consequences of a subscription trap.
  • Set up third-party lock: So that third-party providers cannot bill services directly via the mobile phone bill, you can activate a so-called third-party lock with your mobile phone provider. The different companies have different procedures. If you have any questions about this, you have to contact your mobile operator.
Many providers now offer third-party blocks only for certain offers. For example, you can protect yourself from dangerous subscriptions, but continue to use useful services. Who offers which options, and how you can set up the block with the individual providers, we have in the article Subscription trap? Set up third-party lock put together for you.

More on the topic at mobilsicherheit.de

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