As reported, Complete Savings has come under fire from outraged people saying the firm has been withdrawing £15 a month from bank accounts without their knowledge.
Scores of people turned to review site Trustpilot to warn others to “stay well clear” after believing they have been duped by the firm, based at Sentinel House, Airspeed Road in Portsmouth - the UK arm of a Dutch-based firm. The company has denied any wrongdoing to the claims alleged by individuals.
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The city company, which has domains completesavings.co.uk and completesave.co.uk, describes itself as an “online savings programme ideal for those who shop online regularly”. The company encourages people to become a member by signing up before browsing popular retailers and making purchases online before getting “cashback directly to your bank account”.
But despite the firm protesting it has done nothing wrong, many customers were less than impressed after saying money was taken from their accounts having never signed up to Complete Savings or even heard of the company.
One city resident told The News he was left “embarrassed” after only realising 11 years later that £15 a month was being taken from his bank account.
He said: “I have no reason to think their core business is not legitimate but their method of boosting their membership attracts great concern. For example, when payment is made to such companies as National Express and Network Rail there is an option to make a saving on your next trip. Many people attracted by this offer follow this up but end up, unbeknown to them, purportedly becoming a member of Completesave.co.uk.”
On Trustpilot completesave.co.uk has around 1,650 reviews and is rated as “bad” with just one star out of a possible five - with many reviews negative.
One person posted: “Please refund my £15 that you took without my authorisation immediately.”
A second said: “They stole £15 from my 13 year old's account for services she never signed up for - she never received anything to say she had joined anything.”
Another person posted: “Like many others on this thread I suffered the same fate with being misled to sign up for a subscription service. I had £180 taken out of my account without ever authorising it.”
Following The News’ article, Portsmouth City Council has revealed its Trading Standards team has been in touch with Complete Savings. A spokeswoman for the authority said: "We are not currently investigating Complete Savings but are in contact with the company to ensure that the sign-up process and its terms and conditions are clear.
“We would always encourage customers who have concerns about a business to contact Citizen's Advice's consumer services in the first instance for support."
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the government’s Information Commissioner’s Office - which upholds information rights in the public interest and promotes openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals - said: “This isn’t something we would comment on.”
A statement from Complete Savings previously said: “Any member who has a question or a concern can contact us, and we will always try our best to find a resolution. If a member wishes to cancel their membership, they can do this at any time and using the method they prefer for simplicity and ease: for example, they can email or call our customer service team which is easy because we have an option which reads out a choice menu where the member can press a number to cancel.
"Alternatively, they can cancel by logging in to our website and cancelling online. Members can even cancel when they have not logged in via our virtual chatbot which handles cancellation requests immediately.”
Meanwhile, The News’ consumer expert Richard Thomson, who writes the Streetwise/People's Champion page, said he had concerns over the trader complying with the consumer protection legislation and advised people to check the law.
Richard, who used to work in Trading Standards, said: “Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) is the initial Trading Standards reporting platform for consumer complaints covered by the relevant legislation and readers would be well advised to make a formal complaint to their local CAB to alert trading standards.”
But he added: “The severity of budget cuts has reduced their enforcement capability almost to a toothless watchdog.
“The council’s response is not unusual these days. Trading Standards now initially advise traders about compliance and only take steps to enforce if evidence emerges their advice has been ignored.”
Richard cited this applicable law:
The law of contract requires an explicit offer to be made to a purchaser of goods or services, and an equally explicit acceptance of the offer by the buyer even if it is by implication e.g. putting goods in a basket while shopping and paying for them in store.
The General Data Protection Regulations 2018 (GDPR) prohibits processing personal information data solely on the basis of tick box consent.
The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (the CCR regulations) also prohibits consumers being charged for goods/services purchased online which were bought as a result of consent via boxes pre ticked.
The CCR regulations additionally protects buyers entering into contracts at a distance for goods and services online, phone, a catalogue, or away from company premises. They are required to be given an enforceable legal 14 day cooling off period, which must be spelled out when the contract is made in writing. Under the CCR’s a consumer can unequivocally cancel the contract without giving any reason for the cancellation and the trader must refund them.
The city council said the Citizens Advice consumer service provides consumer advice and information for residents and shoppers. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or call 0808 223 1133. Calls from mobile and landlines are free.
“If customers have concerns about a business, Portsmouth City Council's trading standards team helps to protect residents from unscrupulous traders and consumer issues and helps to ensure that businesses comply with the law,” the council spokeswoman added.
You can email them at email@example.com.