The real issue with digital newspaper subscriptions, and what to do about it.

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

At ScribePay we are always on the lookout for subscription traps. Subscription traps occur when companies have free trials or offers, but with unclear terms and conditions, poor visibility of payment schedules or payment amounts, and no clear way to cancel.

One sector where these traps are becoming increasingly common is the digital newspaper sector, with many publishers hiding their content behind subscription paywalls. On the face of it there shouldn’t be a problem with this strategy, since we are all used to paying for their paper counterparts, but when people visit the newsagents, they aren’t signing up to a continuous payment authorisation. These arrangements feel like direct debits but are quite different in that they authorise the vendor to pay themselves from your card, without any need to inform you. To learn more about recurring payments and protecting your finances, read our blog article here.

Online newspapers often use a pay to view approach to their content, where users will have to subscribe to view a particular article. Instead of offering a flat rate for each article, consumers are offered a subscription or limited free trial which unlocks the content. Once consumers have set up this payment authorisation they are trusting the vendor to not trap them into an unclear payments schedule, and to allow them to cancel when they want. Judging from recent Trustpilot reviews this is not the case.

This unfriendly business practise isn’t limited to a single incident, 172 of the 198 reviews on Trustpilot for the Times newspaper are one star, with over 90 hits mentioning difficulties with cancelling free trials or subscriptions. The Telegraph is a similar story with 203 of the 271 reviews being only one star, and many reviews stating how tricky it is to cancel.

Consumers can sign up to subscriptions online, but cancelling is a different matter. The media companies require their customers to phone a specific support line in order to cancel the subscription. However, it is not obvious to many customers that they have to call the newspaper and as a result they spend a lot of time trying to contact the vendor, becoming more and more frustrated with the lack of transparency.

With ScribePay subscriptions will be easy. Consumers will get control over their subscription payments, will be alerted before card charges are made, and they can cancel at any time.

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