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GoCompare suggests a wider ‘current account clean-up’ as Citizens Advice warns people about unwanted subscriptions

27 November 2017

GoCompare supports the Citizens Advice campaign on unwanted subscriptions, and is suggesting that people review their bank and credit card statements to root out unwanted payments.

Citizens Advice is warning consumers that, with the rise of subscription-based services, it may be easy to sign up for such arrangements but difficult to get out of them, with 9 in 10 people saying they were initially refused by the company when they tried to cancel their subscription.

GoCompare’s own research* reveals that 42% of people say they have direct debits, standing orders, subscriptions, donations and memberships they no longer want or use.  These so-called ‘zombie bills’ cost people £340 a year, on average.

Top ‘subscriptions’ or contracts people waste money on

  • Subscriptions for satellite TV with channels they hardly watch (16%)
  • Mobile phone contracts (13%)
  • Subscriptions to services such as Netflix (7%)
  • Unused gym memberships (6%)
  • Amazon Prime membership (5%)

The research, commissioned by GoCompare Money, also revealed that many people fail to regularly review their bank account and credit card statements – potentially missing the opportunity to spot and deal with bogey payments lurking in their finances.

More than two fifths (44%) of people admitted to having not reviewed direct debits and standing orders paid from their accounts in the last 12 months.

On average, people are paying £28.30 a month for things they don’t use or want, but others are forking-out considerably more.  14% estimate they are paying over £40 a month while one in ten spend over £50 each month on unnecessary items.

Commenting on the research, Georgie Frost, head of consumer affairs at GoCompare, said:

“Automated payments including direct debits and standing orders can be a double-edged sword – depending on how you manage them. On the up-side they can save you money and make life easier, ensuring bills are paid on time without you having to think about it. But therein lies the problem. Unless you stay on top of your finances you could end up with a load of ‘zombie bills’ leeching away your cash without realising it.

“It’s a good idea to get mobile with your banking or to review your bank and credit card statements regularly to check for overpayments, changes to terms and conditions including fees, and for errors, fraudulent payments or omissions.

“Some companies offer one month free trials of their services and then roll you on to a paid subscription. Regularly reviewing your financial statements will help uncover any forgotten payments or areas of unnecessary expenditure. Ask yourself if you are making the most of your subscriptions and memberships, if not, get rid!”

Tips from GoCompare Money on identifying and stopping ‘zombie bills’:

  • Make time to review your bank and credit card statements – twice a year at the very least.
  • Regular payments can be monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual, so look at your statements over the last 12 months.
  • Direct debits are set up when you sign a mandate to let a company take a fixed or variable amount of money from your account.  You are entitled to ask your bank to cancel a DD instruction any time you like.
  • A standing order is an instruction from you to your bank to pay a fixed amount indefinitely or to end on a certain date.  You can change the payment amount or cancel a standing order whenever you want.
  • If you see a payment on your statement you don’t recognise contact your bank or credit card provider.  They should be able to clarify who the payment is being made to.
  • Continuous payment authorities (CPAs) are often used by gyms, subscription websites and mobile phone contracts as the date and amount can be changed each month - making them tricky to spot.  You can cancel a CPA through the company taking the payment.
  • After you’ve cancelled a payment, keep checking your statements to ensure no further payments have been taken.

For more information on cancelling a CPA see GoCompares guide page.

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Notes to editors:

*On 10 October 2017, Bilendi conducted an online survey among 2,000 randomly selected British adults who are Maximiles UK panelists.  The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.